Headed to an explosion: Following Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' declaration that the general elections in the Palestinian Authority will be moved up, thousands of Fatah activists, including hundreds of gunmen from the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Fatah's military wing, took to the streets of Gaza Saturday and began shooting in the air.
Ahmed Yusuf, one of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's associates, said that "what we heard from Abbas is a call for civil war, which we are trying to avoid. These remarks will lead to an internal conflict, which may bring about many losses and bloody attacks, on both sides."
In recent days, rumors were spread in websites affiliated with Fatah that Hamas has called for the assassination of top Fatah official Muhammad Dahlan and another seven officials.
Hamas rejected the claim, but in a demonstration held near Dahlan's house Fatah members threatened that if their leader is hurt, they will respond immediately against Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and other Hamas officials.
Earlier, senior Hamas officials were quick to reject Abbas' declaration, calling the decision "meaningless".
According to Hamas leaders, Abbas has no legal authority to dismantle the government and, thus, his decision is illegal.
As such, Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar said that Hamas rejected Abbas' decision regarding elections, but said the organization is ready to return to the negotiating table.
Nonetheless, al-Zahar emphasized that a return to negotiations "would not be based on recognizing Israel or the demands of the Quartet."
According to him, "we're not worried about elections, which I'm sure we would win. The question is what this promises once we win again – they won't want to move up elections again."
Prior to the speech, Hamas had already declared that they would not accept any decision declared by Abbas in his speech, nor recognize any call for moving up election or for a public referendum.
On his part, in a speech expressing rage at violence propagated by Hamas, Abbas stated that "the people are the source of our authority," he said. "I will return to the people in and let them decide."
Abbas stated that he would meet with the election committee to decide upon a new date for the elections, but refrained from suggested one, saying that the best solution would still be a technocratic government established by agreement between Hamas and Fatah.
Friday, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal said that "even if the whole world joins together, they won't succeed in getting rid of us or preventing us from serving our nation based on the rights granted to us by our constituents."
"The resistance will continue to be our guiding principle," he emphasized.
Hamas sources told Ynet that they do not consider Abbas' decision significant and hope to renew dialogue regarding a unity government in the upcoming days. "In either case, Hamas will continue to lead the government in the upcoming years," they said.
Just a threat?
Abbas' move is not necessarily unprecedented. On June 10, he declared that he would hold a public referendum within a month if the prisoners' document was not signed by the Palestinian organizations. Hamas officials were unflustered and said that he was trying to pressure them in order to receive the prisoners' document.
Since then, the document has changed form many times but its primary objective – a Palestinian unity government – has not been reached and still seems like a far-distant goal.
It seems that the situation now is similar. Abbas' call to move up elections was designed to pressure the Palestinian organizations, primarily Hamas, to reach and agreement on a unity government.
Thus, the current government is choosing only to focus on the second part of his declaration, in which he leaves the door open for future negotiation with Hamas.
Nonetheless, Fatah sources close to Abbas said that the President has already contacted the elections committee regarding moving up the elections.
"Abu Mazen (Abbas) understand that there's probably nothing more to talk about with Hamas and there's no obstacle to returning to the people," one source said.
"Whether to allow the elections or not will be up to Hamas to decide – whether to drag the Palestinian people into internal conflict…or to become serious about a unity government," he added.
"Khaled Mashaal in Damascus will make the final decision, and not Mahmoud Abbas in the Mukata in Ramallah," he concluded.