Hamas tells Palestinian refugees to protest



Associated Press
2011-01-25 07:10 PM



Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Tuesday accused their pragmatic Palestinian rivals of treason after an Arab satellite channel citing leaked documents said they were ready to accept a return of only a symbolic number of refugees in Israel.

Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader in Gaza, urged “masses in the Arab countries and refugees everywhere to voice their words because this case is more serious than anyone could imagine.”

The documents were made public Sunday and Monday as part of a five-part series on the Qatari-based Al-Jazeera TV channel. Additional segments are planned throughout the week, based on what the station says are more than 1,600 transcripts and other documents covering a decade of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Traditionally, the Palestinians _ both from Hamas and rival forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas _ have said all Palestinian refugees and their descendants, or several million people in all, have the “right of return” to properties lost when the state of Israel was created in 1948.

Documents presented by Al-Jazeera late Monday suggested a different reality. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was quoted as telling a U.S. official, David Hale, that the Palestinians offered Israel the return of a “symbolic number” of refugees.

In a separate transcript of a meeting between Abbas and Palestinian officials, the Palestinian president is quoted as saying it would be “illogical” to demand the return of 5 million refugees to Israel.

Israel rejects a mass resettlement of refugees, saying it would dilute the state’s Jewish majority.

The revelations about the refugee issue are seen as potentially the most damaging to Abbas and his aides, because they suggest a large gap between what the Palestinian public was told and what was said behind closed doors in Israeli-Palestinian meetings.

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said the leaked documents come as a shock to many Palestinians.

“This is more than just a betrayal of precious and long-held national goals and aspirations,” he said Tuesday. “This is treason, pure and simple.”

Hamas and Abbas have been bitter rivals since the Islamic militants seized Gaza by force in 2007. The Islamic militants oppose negotiations with Israel and territorial compromise. The nightly revelations on Al-Jazeera could give a boost Hamas, at the expense of Abbas.

After the initial broadcast on Sunday evening, Abbas aides challenged the authenticity of some of the documents and said quotes were taken out of context, as part of what they described as a smear campaign against the West Bank leadership.

Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator, reiterated those allegation Tuesday.

However, Nabil Shaath, a senior aide to Abbas, was quoted by Al-Jazeera as saying that the station “according to my information, received all the documents we have that are related to the negotiations.”


Barzak contributed from Gaza City.

Hamas tells Palestinian refugees to protest – Taiwan News Online.

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