GAZA CITY — Hamas has asked Egypt to delay the signing of a Palestinian reconciliation deal Cairo had announced for later this month, a source within the Islamist group ruling Gaza said on Wednesday.
Hamas "asked Egypt to postpone the session for the signature of the agreement" with the rival secular Fatah faction headed by president Mahmud Abbas, the source told AFP, asking not to be named.
Egypt had announced on Monday that the bitter rivals would come to Cairo to sign a long-delayed reconciliation deal on October 25-26.
The postponement was requested because of the controversial decision by the Palestinian delegation at the UN Human Rights Council to drop its backing for an immediate vote on a damning report on the Gaza war, the Hamas source said.
For his part, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum would only say that "Hamas, Palestinian factions and Egyptian officials are continuing consultations over what consequences the withdrawal of support for the Goldstone report by the Palestinian Authority would have on the Palestinian reconciliation dialogue."
Another Hamas spokesman, Taher al-Nunu, said the decision on the Goldstone report "has had a negative impact on the dialogue."
In Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said: "I don't imagine that anyone who (seeks a delay) really strives for the unity of Palestinian national work."
The UN report, authored by respected South African judge Richard Goldstone, accused Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during the 22-day war that killed 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.
On Friday, the Geneva-based council decided to defer a vote on the report until March after the Palestinian delegation agreed to the move, reportedly under US pressure.
Hamas has been at the forefront of criticism levelled at Abbas over the decision, saying the move "betrayed" the Palestinian victims of the offensive.
A group of university professors in Gaza underlined their discontent over the decision during a press conference on Wednesday by throwing shoes at an Abbas portrait that bore the words: "To the dustbin of history, you traitor."
The beleaguered president, who has also faced a storm of criticism across the Arab world, has since sought to backtrack, saying he welcomed a move by Libya to hold an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the report.
Senior Abbas aide Yasser Abed Rabbo admitted that "the Palestinian leadership has made a mistake."
"We recognise it was a mistake," he told local television in Ramallah. "It can be fixed and we are working on it."
Fatah and Hamas have increasingly been at odds since January 2006, when the Islamists routed the long-dominant secular party in Palestinian parliamentary elections.
The two parties signed a reconciliation deal in Saudi Arabia in February 2007 after months of escalating tensions dissolved into deadly Gaza street clashes.
But the tension boiled over again, and a week of deadly street battles ended with Hamas routing pro-Fatah forces from Gaza in June 2007, effectively cleaving the Palestinians into two separate entities.
The division, with Western-shunned Hamas in charge of Gaza and Western-backed Abbas running the occupied West Bank, has added another obstacle to reaching an elusive peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »