GAZA, (Reuters) – Rival Palestinian factions agreed early on Saturday to work together to ease tension that had soared after the governing Hamas group accused some loyalists of President Mahmoud Abbas of plotting a “coup attempt”.
The Islamist group made the accusation in a statement on Friday, saying the Abbas loyalists planned to storm some public buildings on Saturday. It did not accuse Abbas himself.
While Hamas provided no evidence of a plot and officials from Abbas’s Fatah dismissed it as lies, the accusation underlined their increasingly bitter and violent power struggle.
The rivals agreed at a meeting in Gaza to keep all their gunmen off the streets on Saturday and allow only the police to patrol.
“Hamas and Fatah will help the police forces to deploy and they will prevent any rallies or armed displays by their members,” said Ibrahim Abu An-Naja of the committee of Palestinian factions, outlining the agreement reached between Fatah and Hamas leaders in Gaza.
After the meeting, senior Hamas leader Fathi Hammad said: “fears that some may try to carry out a coup attempt have vanished.”
The power struggle between Hamas and Fatah has intensified in recent weeks after they failed to agree on a coalition government. Many Palestinians expect it to come to a head now the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan is over.
At least 20 people have been killed in recent internal violence, prompting fears of civil war.
Talks on a unity government collapsed because Hamas and Fatah could not agree on terms that might have led to an easing of a Western aid embargo, which is designed to push Hamas to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept past accords.
Abbas, a moderate, wanted an agreement that would have at least implied recognition of Israel.
Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction, said it would never recognise Israel even implicitly.
Tensions have been exacerbated by the worsening economic situation as a result of the embargo. That has led to strikes and protests by some government workers and members of the security forces, dominated by Fatah.