Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas accused Hamas militants yesterday of trying to assassinate him just before their recent military takeover of the Gaza Strip, and said there could be no dialogue with the "murderous terrorists" behind the attack.
In a televised speech, during which Mr. Abbas's face occasionally contorted with anger, the leader of the mainstream Fatah movement detailed what he said was a plot to kill him. It was supposed to take place during a visit to Gaza last month, Mr. Abbas said, that was abruptly cancelled because of unspecified security concerns.
He said he had seen videotapes of Hamas men digging a tunnel under a road, where his car was to pass, and trying to fill it with 250 kilograms of explosives.
Mr. Abbas said the men boasted on the tape that the bomb was "for Abu Mazen," using Mr. Abbas's nickname. He said he had sent copies of the videotape to Arab world leaders to show them how far Hamas had gone.
Hamas's seizure of Gaza was a premeditated act carried out with unspecified foreign help, he said in his first public statement since Hamas seized control of Gaza last week. "There is no dialogue with these murderous terrorists. I address our people in Gaza. I tell them that the plans of these putschist assassins have no future."
Mr. Abbas listed off Hamas's alleged atrocities during a week of bloody fighting that left an estimated 120 people dead.The speech was a break from form for the normally reserved Palestinian leader, who said he had held back until now in an effort to find a way out of the crisis through dialogue.
That effort appears to be over. Earlier yesterday, Mr. Abbas, who last week dissolved the Hamas-led government and declared a state of emergency, convened the ruling body of the Palestine Liberation Organization. It was a meeting aimed at "toppling" Hamas in Gaza, said those who attended.
Hamas leaders reacted with indignation to Mr. Abbas's speech, saying it was full of lies. "What he said was disgusting and not appropriate for the Palestinian president," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhrisaid. "The president has harmed himself with his words."
Despite the current turmoil inside the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Abbas said in his speech that there was no barrier to immediate peace talks with Israel.
The man he appointed last week to head a crisis government, prime minister Salaam Fayyad, held a telephone conversation with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni yesterday. It marked the first high-level contact between Israel and the new Palestinian government, and both sides said it represented the beginning of what they expected would be positive dialogue.