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Abbas to visit Gaza; first time since 2007

Nov. 30, 2012 at 7:14 AM   |   Comments

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GAZA, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Mahmoud Abbas will visit Gaza for the first time in more than five years to try to heal the dispute between his Fatah Party and Hamas, officials said.

The Palestinian Authority president has not visited Gaza since Hamas seized control of the area in the summer of 2007.

Palestine Liberation Organization official Zakariya al-Agha said Abbas' visit would focus on the possibility of establishing a unity government between Fatah and Hamas, The Jerusalem Post reported Friday.

The announcement came before Abbas spoke at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on upgrading Palestinian status to a non-member observer state, officials said. The General Assembly approved the status upgrade Thursday.

Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, recently was quoted as saying Abbas wouldn't be permitted to enter Gaza for fear that his party rivals may harm him. Zahar also reportedly said he has asked the prosecutor-general's office in Gaza to arrest Abbas for "libel and slander" if he enters the strip.

Thousands of Palestinians celebrated the U.N. vote in the West Bank and Gaza Thursday.

Jibril Rajoub, a former P.A. security commander and Fatah representative, told revelers in Ramallah, West Bank, that Palestinians are seeking an end to injustices and there was no room for Jewish settlers on Palestinian lands after the U.N. vote, the Post said.

He stressed the need to end the Fatah-Hamas rift.

Hamas representative Nasser Eddin Shaer, also at the Ramallah rally, praised the statehood bid and called for Palestinian unity.

"We are a people who are entitled to live," Shaer said. "The U.N. bid is an important step. It is not a declaration of war against anyone."

A recent poll indicated Israelis were pessimistic about negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Ynetnews reported. The survey was taken before the U.N. vote.

Fifty-one percent of Israelis said they don't think a peace agreement will be reached and 40 percent said peace could be achieved but it would take at least five years, results indicated.

The findings were presented at the opening of the Saban Forum for U.S.-Israeli strategic dialogue Washington.

The survey was conducted by the Dahaf Institute and Shibley Telhami, a Saban Institute researcher and lecturer at the University of Maryland. Results are based on telephone interviews with 600 Israelis Nov. 21-26. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

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