Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas is planning to approve a series of additional punitive measures against Hamas, which he claims was responsible for last week's attempt on the life of PA cabinet chief Rami Hamdallah.
Commentators see these steps as a deliberate move by Abbas to drag Hamas into a confrontation with Israel in order to block the "deal of the century", the peace plan being formulated by the American administration and which the PA views as biased in favor of Israel.
A senior PA official told the alkhaleejonline.net website that Abbas’s punitive measures would be more severe than ones he has previously imposed on Hamas, would harm the daily lives of the residents of Gaza and raise the rate of poverty and unemployment.
These measures will include, among other things, a significant increase in taxes on imports and exports to and from Gaza, a reduction in the salaries of public sector employees (including security personnel), the cessation of allowances by the PA bureau of social affairs for 80,000 families in Gaza, freezing financing for treatment of patients and purchases of medical equipment, reducing the supply of electricity to Gaza (apparently through non-payment to the Israeli Electric Company), stopping of payment to the Mekorot company for water purchases and closing bank accounts of businessmen, companies and institutions.
The PA official said that the punitive measures will take effect no later than the beginning of April.
Abbas on Monday directly blamed Hamas for last week’s bomb attack against Hamdallah in Gaza, saying that if the attack had succeeded it would have "opened the way for a bloody civil war."
Abbas also said the incident would "not be allowed to pass" and announced he would take unspecified "national, legal and financial measures" against Hamas.
Last week, immediately after the attack, Abbas did not directly blame Hamas but placed responsibility for the attack on the "illegal" government in Gaza which is headed by the group.
Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah faction have been at odds since 2007, when Hamas took over Gaza in a bloody coup.
The two groups signed a reconciliation agreement in October, as part of which Hamas was to transfer power in Gaza by December 1. That deadline was initially put back by 10 days and then appeared to have been cancelled altogether after it reportedly hit “obstacles”.
Last month, Hamas denounced the Hamdallah cabinet over its policy of "deceiving, creating tension and deliberately neglecting the needs of the residents of the Gaza Strip."