Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently announced plans to visit the Gaza Strip in the near future, has raised the tensions between two rival Palestinian groups, Hamas and Fatah, which have been at odds in recent years Today`s Zaman reported.
Erdogan recently told journalists on a plane en route to Ankara from Berlin that he has plans to visit Gaza soon and that authorities are having talks with officials in Gaza to arrange the trip. He even added that he had extended an invitation to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority that controls the Israel-occupied West Bank and is the main political rival to Hamas, to visit Gaza together. "He was warm to the suggestion," Erdogan said.
However, the office of Fatah, the party headed by Abbas, reacted to Erdoğan's words on Saturday. A spokesman for Abbas, Yasser Abid Rabbo, said that is was unacceptable that a country would be invited to its own lands.
Abbas himself also reacted to a recent visit by the emir of Qatar to the Gaza Strip, the first such visit by a head of state since Hamas seized control of the coastal strip from Fatah five years ago. "If countries want to assist Gaza, then they should do so by applying to legal authorities," Abbas said in criticism of the visit.
Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and his wife Sheikha Mozah crossed over into Gaza from Egypt late last month at the head of a large delegation, and were given a hero's welcome by Hamas' prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and an honor guard.
The landmark visit by the emir handed the ruling Hamas -- branded terrorists by the West and isolated by an Israeli blockade -- its biggest diplomatic victory since taking power. It was also a strong sign of the rising power of oil-rich Qatar and the mounting influence of Hamas' parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, since last year's Arab Spring uprisings.
While Gaza celebrated the emir's arrival, the rival Palestinian government of Abbas in the West Bank was less enthusiastic.
According to The New York Times, Erdogan's plan to visit Gaza would draw Turkey away from the Palestinian government in the West Bank, as well as from Israel and the West, which cooperate with the Abbas government. The visit would also strengthen the legitimacy of Hamas, the newspaper reported.
Analysts also argue that Erdoğan's visit would be a slap in the face of the Abbas administration, which has already lost support from the Arab world.
Khaled Meshal, the political chief of Hamas, stood out as the most applauded foreign guest at a historic congress of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) last September in the Turkish capital, Ankara, receiving a salute from Prime Minister Erdoğan.
Hamas and Fatah began rounding up each other's supporters when Hamas violently seized control of Gaza from Fatah in 2007. Abbas, concerned about losing the remainder of the land his party controlled in the West Bank, began cracking down on Hamas activists, institutions and funding. About 900 Hamas activists are currently jailed in the West Bank, while more than 200 Fatah supporters in Gaza have to report daily to Hamas offices and spend long hours there in an improvised form of detention, for lack of prison space.
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