Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday refused to grant West Bank asylum to followers who fled the fighting with rivals Hamas in Gaza Strip. Abbas ordered some 200 fighters back to Gaza Strip from Israel, insisting a Fatah presence must be retained in the Hamas-led territory.
The wrangling over the fate of the 188 Fatah refugees came a day after 11 people were killed and dozens wounded during a Hamas raid on a Fatah stronghold in Gaza City.
The escape posed a dilemma for Abbas. "Fatah officials in Gaza should stay in their posts and should not leave Gaza to Hamas," Fahmi Zaghrir, a West Bank spokesman for Fatah, said Sunday. An exception would be made for those wanted by Hamas, added Nimr Hamad, an Abbas adviser, according to the AP.
In Jordan for talks on Sunday, the Palestinian leader called for dialogue to solve the dispute. He said the Palestinians must "continue to hope, even if we fight between each other or have differences."
A Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said those who fled and were sent back to Gaza would be questioned. Any not involved in "criminal acts" would be released, he said. According to him, the escape confirms the Fatah members' complicity with the Israeli occupation.