Middle East News
Hamas cell arrested in West Bank plotted to kill Abbas: report
Jul 3, 2009, 6:04 GMT
Ramallah - Members of a Hamas cell arrested in the West Bank last month had been tracking the movements of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with the 'clear' intention to assassinate him, senior officials in Abbas' Fatah party were quoted Friday as saying.
Palestinian Authority (PA) Secretary-General Tayeb Abdel Rahim had announced the arrest of some 10 Hamas members in a news conference Monday, saying the cell had been preparing to assassinate leading officials in Abbas' West Bank-based administration.
The Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported Friday that since then, new details have emerged and that Abbas himself had been among the targets.
Hamas, the radical Islamist movement ruling Gaza, and Fatah, the secular party of Abbas, have been locked in an at times bloody power struggle.
The rivalry erupted after Hamas unexpectedly beat Fatah in 2006 parliamentary elections and peaked in 2007, when Hamas violently seized sole control of Gaza by storming the headquarters of Abbas' Fatah-dominated security forces throughout the strip.
The sides have been holding Egyptian-mediated talks in Cairo, in a bid to reconcile their differences and allow new elections to take place by January 2010.
'Hamas' intention was to scuttle the reconciliation talks in Cairo and to create chaos in the West Bank, in contrast to the sense of security that has characterized the territory for the past two years,' Fatah spokesman Fahmi Zarir told Ha'aretz.
Ha'aretz said the Hamas members were caught not only with weapons, but also with maps and photographs, indicating the cell was conducting surveillance on Abbas himself.
Sources in Abbas' West Bank administration, speaking on condition of anonymity to Ha'aretz, charged his security sources have detailed confessions in which the suspects acknowledged planning to assassinate several PA officials and stated they were observing Abbas' movements.
A spokesman for Hamas' military wing, the Qassam Brigades, has denied the allegations.