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      Fatah Demands Hamas Apologize in Gaza Row

      The row over Hamas denying a Fatah delegation entry to Gaza has devolved into charges of blasphemy and demands for an apology.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 1/9/2012, 6:58 PM

      Fatah issued a statement Monday demanding Hamas apologize for "banning and humiliating" a delegation from Ramallah that sought to visit Gaza last Friday.

      “No one owns Gaza, it should be open to all Palestinians,” the statement read. “The treatment by Hamas was a serious slap in the face to all efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation."

      “Hamas should provide an official apology to Fatah and the Palestinian public for the humiliating way the presidential delegation was treated.

      “Fatah therefore will reconsider its position in the reconciliation deal depending on Hamas’reaction," the statement said.

      Hamas seized control of Gaza in a bloody putsch in 2007, a year after winning national elections. The act was rejected by the international community and various attempts at establishing a unity government failed.

      Four Fatah officials tried to enter the Gaza Strip Friday for reconciliation talks, but said they were refused entry by Hamas border guards and left after waiting 45 minutes.

      Hamas claimed the delegation refused to wait more than 10 minutes for border guards to call their supervisors to arrange the group's entry.

      The Fatah delegation was comprised of General Esmael Jaber, advisor to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for security affaris, Rawhi Fatouh, a senior Abbas aide, and two members of the Fatah Central Committee Mohammad Al Madani and Sakher Beseso.

      By Sunday the incident had escalated into a row with both rivals accusing each other of trying to use the aborted official visit by Fatah to Gaza as a pretext for scuttling reconciliation talks between the factions.

      The Gaza interior ministry on Sunday accused Fatah delegate Sakher Bseso of "cursing God" and said "certain officials" had started legal proceedings against him for blasphemy. Bseso denies the accusation.

      Fatah responded saying the accusation was "suspicious" and Hamas’ threat against Bseso "aimed first and foremost to close the door to reconciliation and to prevent access to the Gaza Strip to continue the dialogue."

      "If there is anyone to apologize, it should be the person who cursed God and his apology should not be directed at Hamas but to the whole Islamic nation," Hamas responded.

      The spat comes as Hamas has taken increasingly vocal umbrage at a round of talks between officials from Jerusalem and Ramallah in Amman, Jordan. 

      "If there is a previous decision by Fatah to return to the negotiations with Israel and withdraw from the reconciliation, then it would be its own matter and it should hold a full responsibility for its decision in front of the Palestinian people, the Egyptian mediators and the whole Arab nation, who have been optimistic about the reconciliation," Hamas said on Monday.

      Hamas has called the negotiations "a waste of time."