Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar has publicly expressed his opposition to a reconciliation agreement signed this week by the Islamist group's politburo chief, Khaled Mashaal, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Zahar told a Gaza-based news agency that the agreement, under which Abbas would head an interim unity government of politically independent technocrats whose main task would be to prepare for presidential and parliament elections, was finalized without consulting other Hamas leaders.
"Handing the reins of government to Abbas is completely unacceptable," Zahar said. "It's a strategically erroneous plan."
The Hamas leader added that Hamas leaders in Gaza and abroad will convene in the coming days to discuss the terror group's official position on the agreement.
Zahar's comments were published Saturday.
A number of senior Hamas members have issued anonymous statements criticizing the unity deal since it was signed in Doha.
The son of Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan, who was killed by Israel during Operation Cast Lead, wrote on his Facebook page, "Hamas is telling people to elect Abbas! In the next elections you will have the option of choosing between Abbas and Abbas! Because if you vote for him – he will win, and if you vote for Hamas – it will appoint him (president) despite your aversion!"
Those who object to the agreement say it would give Abbas too much power, as it calls for Hamas' longtime rival to serve as both president and prime minister of a transition government.
Another senior Hamas member to criticize the deal in public was lawmaker Ismail al-Ashkar, who heads the group's parliament faction in Gaza and has been involved in reconciliation talks with Abbas' Fatah movement.
Al-Ashkar said having Abbas serve both as president and as prime minister violates the Palestinian basic law, the forerunner of an eventual constitution.
"I am not against the agreement (but) a person other than Mahmoud Abbas should be named" as prime minister, he said in an interview at the Gaza parliament.
Despite the criticism, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum's said the terror group is ready to cede power to an interim unity government led Abbas.
AP contributed to the report
You can contact Elior Levy, Ynet's Palestinian Affairs Correspondent, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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