Abbas swears in cabinet over Hamas's opposition
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Sunday, June 17, 2007 5:39PM EDT
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a new emergency cabinet stacked with political independents and outlawed armed factions of Hamas.
In doing so Sunday, he expressed hope to reunite the Gaza Strip and West Bank under the rule of one Palestinian government.
""This government will fully shoulder its responsibilities, not only in the West Bank but in all the homeland including wounded Gaza," Abbas said.
Hamas leaders in Gaza, however, immediately rejected the new government.
"What this emergency government is, it's illegal," said Ahmed Yousef, a spokesman for the Islamic party.
"We still stand on the right side based on the constitution. What has been taken is out of the jurisdiction of President Abbas. It's beyond his authority."
Abbas issued a decree Sunday that cancelled the law requiring the new government to be approved by parliament.
Deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh insisted he remains in power.
Haniyeh himself fired the head of internal security and the director general of the Palestinian police, thought the decision was largely symbolic because both men have already relocated to the West Bank, along with many other Fatah supporters.
Regardless of who is really in charge, Gaza -- a densely populated, impoverished coastal enclave -- is more isolated than ever.
Israel considers Hamas to be a terrorist group -- Hamas is officially committed to the destruction of Israel, seeing the state as occupying Palestinian land -- and has said Gaza will be considered a terrorist territory under Hamas rule.
On Sunday, things worsened in Gaza when Dor Alon, an Israeli company, cut off fuel deliveries to gas stations there. Those fuel deliveries are also used to power generators that many Gazans use for electricity. The company said it will continue to ship fuel to Gaza's electricity plant.
Worried Gazans have been stockpiling basic supplies, fearful that they will be cut off.
Palestinian official Saeb Erekat appealed to Israel and the wider international community to not cut off Gaza.
"Residents must not be punished for the bloody coup staged by Hamas," he said.
Tensions have been high in the region following Hamas' armed takeover of the Gaza Strip last week.
The seizure came after a series of bloody battles between Fatah and Hamas militias.
Shortly after the Gaza takeover, Abbas declared a state of emergency, dismantled the three-month-old joint Hamas-Fatah national unity government and fired Haniyeh.
With Abbas' swearing-in of the new cabinet, the Palestinians are effectively divided into two camps, with Hamas in charge of Gaza and Abbas and Fatah holding control of the West Bank.
The new cabinet -- comprised largely of independents, including human rights activists and business people -- is led by Salam Fayyad, a respected economist who will continue to serve as finance minister and become foreign minister in the emergency government.
Only one member of the new cabinet, Interior Minister Abdel Razak Yehiyeh, is a Fatah member.
Fayyad pledged the new government would work to bring peace and security to the region.
"You are in our hearts, and the top of our agenda. The dark images, the shameful things that are alien to our traditions ... are not going to stop us," he said, his words directed at Palestinians in Gaza.
It is "time to work together for Palestine," he said.
The establishment of a Hamas-free cabinet should set the groundwork for the resumption of international aid to the Palestinians.
Both the U.S. and European states said the removal of international aid embargoes hinged on the removal of the militant Hamas group from leadership. Aid was expected to resume shortly.
Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay told CTV's Question Period that he hoped to speak with Abbas in the very near future.
"And yes, we're working towards an arrangement that will allow for Canadian aid to flow to this Palestinian government, of course contingent upon no inclusion of Hamas," he said.
Aid has continued to flow from Canada to the Palestinian people through non-governmental organizations even though the Tories cut off funding of the Palestinian Authority government after Hamas took power in early 2006.
The Canadian Press later reported that MacKay spoke with Fayyad and Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister.
Witha report from CTV's Janis Mackey Frayer and files from The Associated Press