HAMAS SLAMS ABBAS ‘INCITEMENT’ –during Arafat anniversary speech

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PALESTINIAN President Mahmud Abbas’ comments during a memorial ceremony for the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat were slammed as an ‘attempt at incitement’ by Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum on Tuesday.

Abbas had used the speech that afternoon to condemn Hamas for ‘thwarting’ both the Yemeni initiative and the Egyptian conciliation efforts and for causing ‘unacceptable’ frustration to the Palestinian people.

Barhoum described the speech as one of a factional leader, not one of a Palestinian President.

‘He did not speak as a president of all Palestinians,’ Barhoum lamented, ‘but rather as a head of his party.’

Barhoum also criticised Abbas for failing to speak out in his speech against the new Israeli siege and blockade of the Gaza Strip, which will see the lights go out and the food supply stop if actions are not taken soon.

Barhoum said the least Abbas should have done would have been to appeal to Egypt to open its borders and help alleviate the suffering.

During his speech Abbas called on Palestinians to preserve and protect their accomplishments and move towards liberty and independence.

Unity and national agreement, he said, is the safety net for the Palestinians.

Addressing Hamas accusations that he and the Fatah party had bowed down to the ‘Israeli-American veto’ on Palestinian dialogue, Abbas said categorically that he does ‘not surrender to pressures’.

Throughout his speech Abbas reiterated the importance of a national unity government, which he said would be able to lift the siege on Gaza and prepare the country for presidential and legislative elections.

This is something that must be done ‘right now’ he said, and not put off for tomorrow.

‘Those who are self-confident’ he added, ‘must prove themselves at the ballot boxes.’

Fatah believes in democracy, he said, ‘even if we do not like the outcome.’

The democratic process is not like a match, to be used once and then discarded, Abbas explained, insisting that Palestine would go to a referendum on the issue of elections ‘like all other democratic countries do’.

He claimed that Hamas was not interested in dialogue, citing what he said was a ban on Arafat celebrations across the Strip.

He also noted that in previous years there had been injuries and even deaths at rallies commemorating the former Palestinian leader.

Abbas finally called on Arab foreign ministers to pass judgment on who had thwarted the Palestinian conciliation talks, and made it clear that he would accept the judgment of the ministers regardless of what it would be.

Israel has limited food and fuel shipments into Gaza, and now appears to be preventing journalists from entering and even leaving the area.

Several journalists have speculated that Israel hopes to limit press coverage of the effects of its latest blockade.

On Tuesday Dirk Jan Visser, a photographer with a foreign news service, was denied entry into the Gaza Strip, on Monday BBC journalist Aleem Maqbool and his colleague were denied entry into Gaza, and a French journalist, ‘V’ was denied permission to leave.

Security officer for UNRWA Andrew Pollock said that there had indeed been some fluxuation in the number of journalists allowed in and out of Gaza, and added that this had been the case since the security situation in the area after 4 November.

Spokesperson for the UN Media office in Gaza (OCHA) Hamada Al-Bayari confirmed that restrictions had been placed on internationals wishing to enter and exit Gaza, and added that the case is even worse for Gazans.

‘Since the Israeli invasion that saw the killing of the six Hamas activists,’ he said, ‘crossing activity has been limited.’

Al-Bayari noted that only severe humanitarian cases are being allowed to leave Gaza.

Given the fluxuation of Israeli security procedures as of Tuesday, Al-Bayari said, we will have to ‘wait and see’ if reports of the barring of journalists from the area represent a strict Israeli policy.

The Israeli army offices in charge of the Erez crossing, the only point of entry or exit for human traffic, refused to comment on the situation.

Israeli journalists have been barred from Gaza for over two years.

UNRWA food distribution for 750,000 citizens will stop tomorrow if the Gaza closure continues.

UNRWA announced on Tuesday that it will be forced to halt food distribution to over 750,000 refugees in the Gaza Strip by Friday unless the flour, oil, milk and meat waiting to be delivered through the closed Gaza crossings are not transferred in to the Strip soon.

While the international agency affirmed that it had back-up fuel supplies to ensure that their trucks could make deliveries to needy Gazans, they said that they would be forced to shut-down food distribution because supplies and reserves would run out.

UNRWA condemned the blockade imposed over Gaza, and especially since it prevented an internationally recognised aid organisation from distributing essential supplies to the depressed population.