Safety on top of preparations for Abbas' visit to Gaza
Security and safety are on the top priorities for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' expected visit to the Gaza Strip, officials said Friday, Xinhua reported.
The West Bank-based presidency said earlier Friday that Abbas authorized a delegation to head for the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas, the rival of Fatah party led by Abbas, to prepare for the visit.
Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior Fatah official, said the delegation " will engage in security preparations and will not include any leaders of Fatah."
On Wednesday, Abbas proposed to go to Gaza in response to public pressure on Fatah and Hamas to reconcile and end splits. The division between Gaza and the West Bank started when Hamas routed pro-Abbbas forces and took over Gaza in 2007. Since then, the rule of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has been confined to the West Bank, and Hamas setup new security services in Gaza from its members and supporters.
Hamas officials refused to comment on the news about the security delegation. Al-Ahmad said that Abbas will go to Gaza only when he gets "a positive response" from Hamas on his initiative, which envisions the formation of a unity, technocratic government in preparation for elections within six months.
Meanwhile, an aid for Abbas said that the Palestinian presidency decided to hold contacts with Arab states, explaining Abbas' initiative to end the Palestinian internal struggle.
Nemer Hammad, Abbas' political advisor, said that it has been decided to invite Hamas leaders in the West Bank for a meeting with Abbas ahead of his visit to Gaza.
On Friday, the president received support from the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLA) Central Committee on his vision for ending the division.
"We call on all Palestinian people's political and social components to cooperate with the president's important initiative, which is a real, historical opportunity to reunite the homeland," the committee said in a statement.
Abbas asked earlier Friday for an urgent Israeli permission to head for the Gaza Strip for the first time in more than three years, his office said.
The Palestinian presidency said that Abbas ordered Palestinian Civil Affairs Ministry, which oversees daily coordination with Israel, to prepare for his visit to Gaza as soon as possible.
Hussein Al-Sheikh, the minister, told Xinhua that his ministry "started doing security and logistic arrangements with Israel" for Abbas' visit to Gaza, which is controlled by Islamic Hamas movement. "The visit will take place in the few coming days," Al- Sheikh said.
Mass protests, ignited by independent youths, started on March 15 in Gaza and in the West Bank, demanding the two rivals to reconcile. On that day, Ismail Haneya, the head of Hamas Gaza administration, called upon Abbas for a meeting to renew national dialogue.
Abbas responded that he will go to Gaza in order to form a technocratic government preparing for national and presidential elections in six months, stressing that he will not run for another term.