Hamas: 'Abbas has failed'

Palestinian militants Hamas stepped up their verbal attacks on President Mahmoud Abbas today on the eve of the US Middle East conference, saying his policies had failed and undermined prospects for statehood and unity.

Hamas and other militant groups have been holding a series of protests against the conference, underscoring the difficulties Mr Abbas faces at home as he tries to make peace with Israel.

Hamas violently seized control of Gaza from Mr Abbas’ forces in June, leaving him in charge of a pro-Western government based in the West Bank. His lack of control over Gaza has raised questions about his ability to carry out any future peace deal.

Hamas’ criticism of Abbas has grown increasingly heated, and personal.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said today that Mr Abbas, widely known as Abu Mazen, promoted a “failed and dangerous” policy undermining Palestinian unity.

“The Palestinian people’s history has not seen a worst era than that of Abu Mazen as president,” he said.

Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of Gaza’s Hamas government, was among a series of Hamas leaders to sign a document stating that Abbas has no right to make concessions in peace talks.

“The people believe that this conference is fruitless and that any recommendations or commitments made in the conference that harm our rights will not be binding for our people,” Haniyeh said as he entered the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza. “It will be binding only for those who sign it.”

The pledge rejected any compromise with Israel on core issues at the heart of the conflict, including the status of disputed Jerusalem and the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees who lost properties as a result of Israel’s establishment in 1948.

Israel opposes any return of refugees, saying it would mean the end of the country as a Jewish state. And while Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has signalled readiness to give the Palestinians control over parts of Jerusalem, he wants the Old City – home to key Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites – to remain in Israeli hands. The Palestinians want all of east Jerusalem, including the Old City, to be their capital.

Mr Abbas has virtually no control over militants from Hamas and other groups who fire rockets and mortars into Israel. Recognising this, he wants a deal to be implemented in the West Bank, and later in Gaza after Hamas is out of power.

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