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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dahlan: Iran, Qatar supported Hamas during Gaza 'coup'

Khaled Abu Toameh

Former Fatah security chief Muhammed Dahlan said Wednesday that he was not surprised by Hamas's "coup" in the Gaza Strip and that he had warned different parties about the Islamic movement's plans.

He also accused Iran and Qatar of providing Hamas with hundreds of millions of dollars.

Dahlan, who is a Fatah member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, has been accused by Hamas of conspiring with the US and Israel to remove the Hamas-led government from power. He is also under attack from some Fatah leaders and activists who hold him responsible for the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip.

His remarks came amid growing pressure on Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate with Hamas a solution to the current crisis.

Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have advised Abbas to resume talks with Hamas leaders over the formation of a new "unity" government, a top PA official in Ramallah said. He told The Jerusalem Post that Abbas's position remained that there would be no dialogue with Hamas until it apologized for what it did in the Gaza Strip and withdrew its men from all the offices and security headquarters which they occupied.

Hamas, for its part, welcomed Arab calls for a dialogue with Fatah, but said it would not accept pre-conditions. Hamas spokesman Ayman Abu Taha said that in any case his movement was not keen on talking to a "bunch of murderers" in Fatah.

"I was not surprised by the coup in the Gaza Strip," Dahlan said. "I knew about Hamas's plans and I told different parties about this so we could try to thwart them."

Asked why the Fatah-controlled security forces were defeated by Hamas, Dahlan said: "The Palestinian security establishment was never prepared for internal fighting. Since the beginning of the intifada in 2000 our security forces faced systematic destruction by Israel. The Israelis destroyed 280 security installations in the past seven years and Hamas continued to destroy security installations before they launched their coup."

Dahlan pointed out that Hamas militiamen had raided the central prison in Gaza City and freed some murderers. "They claim that they have just liberated the Gaza Strip for the second time [after Israeli disengagement]," he said. "The Hamas men have Fatah blood on their hands. They forgot that Fatah had protected them when they were being chased by Israel."

Dahlan denied that he had played any role in the Hamas-Fatah clashes that preceded the takeover, saying he had been abroad for nearly two months for surgery. "I was not in charge of security in the Gaza Strip," he explained. "I was out of the country because I had to undergo surgery. This is not a personal matter because Hamas has been targeting our people and institutions over the past three years."

Dahlan lashed out at Qatar and Iran, accusing each country of giving Hamas $400 million. He also accused Qatar of turning its Al-Jazeera TV network into an organ for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

"For decades, Iran never paid the Palestinians one dollar," he said. "But they gave Hamas $400 million that went to Hamas's bank accounts and not to the Palestinian people. Qatar also gave Hamas another $400 million that were used to slaughter Palestinians."

Dahlan claimed that Iran had been training many Hamas militiamen. "Our people are the victims of regional and international meddling in our affairs," he said.

He also claimed that Hamas was established with the help and support of Israel so that its members could fight against the PLO and Fatah. "Everyone knows that Israel established Hamas back then so that it could fight the PLO," he said. "When Hamas members were arrested back then for possession of weapons, they used to tell the Israelis that the guns were supposed to be used only against Communists and secular Palestinians."

Dahlan ruled out the possibility that Fatah and Hamas would patch up their differences through dialogue. "I don't believe that this is the appropriate time to talk about the resumption of dialogue with Hamas," he said.

"President Abbas does not support taking to these murderers. Besides, Hamas is continuing to hold 120 Fatah members who were kidnapped in the past few weeks. We will resort to all methods to prevent Hamas from perpetrating similar crimes in the West Bank."

In another development, Abbas decided on Wednesday to fire Gen. Musbah al-Buhaisi, commander of the PA Presidential Guard in the southern Gaza Strip, for surrendering to Hamas.

Abbas's office said the decision was taken following recommendations by the special commission of inquiry that was established last week to look into the reasons behind Fatah's defeat. It said Buhaisi was the highest-ranking security official to be dismissed since the Hamas takeover. Buhaisi and many other top security officers fled to Ramallah after Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip two weeks ago.

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