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Abbas calls for international force in Gaza

MIDDLE EAST: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas called for an international force in the Gaza Strip, which is now controlled by the rival Hamas movement.

“We have insisted on the necessity of deploying an international force in the Gaza Strip to guarantee the delivery of humanitarian aid and to allow citizens to enter and leave freely,” Abbas said at a joint news conference in Ramallah after talks with visiting Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

Abbas noted the estimated 4,000 Palestinians who have been blocked at the Rafah crossing terminal on the Egyptian border, shut for nearly a month since the Hamas takeover, 11 of whom are reported to have died in the deteriorating humanitarian conditions.

Prodi said deploying an international force would require the agreement of all the parties involved and that the question “has not yet been examined in detail,” according to the Arabic translation of his remarks.

Abbas’s call threatened to further widen the yawning Palestinian chasm, as Hamas has warned that it would not accept any foreign troops in Gaza and would treat them as an occupying power.

The chief of Hamas’s parliamentary bloc, Salah al-Bardawil, reaffirmed the position on Tuesday.

“We will not accept the presence of an international force,” he said during a press conference in Gaza.

“The arrival of such a force would be a flagrant intervention in Palestinian affairs and a new occupation that we totally reject,” he said, accusing Abbas of “allying himself with foreigners against Hamas.”

The United States gave a lukewarm response to Abbas’ call.

“The focus should be on building up functioning, capable, responsible Palestinian security forces that are capable of functioning” in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

“I’m not sure that you’re going to find too many forces willing to go into what I expect is a non-permissive environment,” McCormack said, adding that Abbas’ proposal would have to be studied.

“I’m not sure it’s gotten a lot of traction at this point. But look, if serious people come up with ideas and they float them, of course we’ll take a look at them,” he added.

Ramallah, Wednesday, AFP

 

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