Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, has been the target of several assassination plans by different terror groups since he took over as PA Chairman after the death of Yasser Arafat.
Several weeks ago, security forces found a 20-meter tunnel dug under Abbas’ home in Gaza. Hamas denied involvement in the incident.
While his Fatah faction militants are engaged in battles with their counterparts from Hamas, Abbas is on a diplomatic visit in Russia. He was set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday to discuss the international economic boycott of the PA, as well as the possibility of resuming peace talks with Israel.
The agenda between the two leaders focused on the humanitarian crisis gripping the PA as a result of funding cuts to the Hamas Authority by Western nations. Russia, however, has continued to transfer funds to the Palestinian Authority, maintaining it would be a mistake to cut funds entirely. Some $10 million in emergency aid was sent directly to Abbas’ office last week, bypassing the Hamas-led government.
Abbas was also expected to also raise the issue of peace negotiations with Israel, a matter he underscored in his “Nakba Day” speech to PA Arabs today. “Nakba Day” is the PA Arabs’ "Day of Catastrophe" marking the anniversary of Israel’s creation.
“I tell our neighbors, the Israelis, that we want to make a just and lasting peace with you, and we want a better future for our children and yours," Abbas said. "So come to make this year a year of peace." Israel feels it cannot negotiate with Abbas while Hamas controls the PA, nor with Hamas while it calls for Israel's destruction.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert refuses to talk peace with Abbas, insisting that such negotiations are useless unless the PA leadership – Hamas – is actively involved in the process and in agreement with the need for peace.
Abu Mazen also spoke of his dream of seeing "the creation of an independent free and democratic state with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital."
Abbas appealed to PA Arab terrorists to stop their Kassam rocket attacks on southern Israel, saying such attacks would only solidify Olmert’s resolve to activate his unilateral withdrawal plan by the end of 2006. He counter-warned Israel that its unilateral approach to the situation would fuel Arab extremism.
A copy of the speech was obtained by Associated Press prior to its broadcast on PA TV and radio.
But while Abbas tells Israel “we extend our hand to you to make peace,” Fatah terrorists are locked in an internal war with Hamas, with both groups fighting for control of the PA. Despite calls last week for a ceasefire by both Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the PA prime minister, gunmen on both sides have continued to escalate the clashes.
On Sunday Hamas fighters shot a Fatah member of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service, a force under Abbas’ control. Hours later, a Hamas terrorist was shot and seriously wounded by Fatah fighters. On Monday, an explosive device was set off next to the home of a Fatah member in northern Gaza. No injuries were reported, however.
As a condition for talks with Israel, the Quartet and Israel have demanded that Hamas formally recognize Israel’s right to exist, disarm and renounce violence, and uphold peace agreements signed by the previous government.
Hamas has categorically refused to meet the demands, despite the consequences of such for the residents of the PA. Until it recognizes Israel, Western nations have refused to send money to fund government salaries and other necessities. The impact on the populace has been dramatic and disastrous. Arab nations, for their part, have pledged support, but have sent little if any money to back up their promises.