Abbas vows to prevent civil war

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday that clashes between activists loyal to the Hamas movement and his more moderate Fateh group were of concern, but added that he would “never let a civil war occur.” Abbas spoke amid rising tensions between Hamas, which won Palestinian parliamentary elections, and his own Fateh Party.

Abbas was quoted Monday as saying that he has the power to dismiss the month-old, Hamas-led government. Over the weekend, men loyal to the two sides traded gunfire and hurled stones and firebombs at each other, and Fateh leaders warned that the violence could deteriorate into civil war.

“Without a doubt we are concerned about it, but we won’t let it turn into a civil war,” Abbas said, referring to the weekend clashes, during a news conference in Turkey. He spoke in Arabic and his remarks were translated into Turkish. “We will never let a civil war occur.” In Gaza, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said he appreciated Abbas’ efforts to reduce tensions.

“Thank God that we contained and ceased these incidents.

My message to our people is that we should maintain and protect the national unity,” he told reporters before a Palestinian Cabinet meeting.

Since the Hamas-led government was sworn into office late last month, Abbas and Hamas have been involved in an increasingly contentious power struggle. Much of this struggle has centred around control of the Palestinian security forces.

Late last week, Hamas announced the formation of a new security agency to be headed by an activist at the top of Israel’s most-wanted list. Abbas vetoed the appointment, drawing condemnation from Hamas’ top leader that sparked days of unrest.

Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel and is listed as a terror organisation by the United States and the European Union. After the Hamas government took office, many Western nations froze aid to the Palestinian administration, sparking a financial crisis.

Abbas has called for a restoration of that aid.

“I wish to make a call to the world: Do not punish the Palestinian people,” he said Tuesday. “We do not want financial assistance to be cut, because it is the Palestinian people who will suffer.” Abbas was in Turkey as part of a tour that is expected to also take him to Norway, Finland and France.

Earlier this month, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised the EU for cutting off direct financial support to the Palestinian government, and said abandoning the policy would contribute to Middle East peace.

Abbas called the cut off in aid “a huge hardship.” “We are in search of a mechanism that would allow us to overcome the hardship, whatever form it is in. We are searching for a mechanism that would allow foreign aid to come in and to solve the economic problem,” he said.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar said on Tuesday Saudi Arabia has pledged $90 million in emergency aid to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, Reuters reported.

He told reporters in the Qatari capital Doha that Kuwait has also pledged $7.5 million to the government.

It was not immediately clear if the funds were part of both countries’ contribution to an Arab League fund to support the new Palestinian government. There has been no official word about the donations from Riyadh or Kuwait.

“The money will be used to fund hospitals, schools and buy medicine,” Zahar said.

“It’s just a matter of logistics,” he added, when asked when the money would be delivered. “We are talking about days not weeks.” Zahar said the funds would be distributed by the government.

He gave no details on how it would be given to the Palestinian Authority.

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