"Tell him to come in": Mahmoud Abbas once (twice) gave refuge to Ismail Haniya in Gaza

Today, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and the Hamas leadership are supposed to sign a reconciliation accord initialed by all 13 Palestinian factions in Cairo yesterday.

This comes after a bitter, extremely bitter, rivalry between the two largest Palestinian political factions

Here is an account — to mark this date, and “in the spirit of things”, as a colleague has written elsewhere –of the time that Mahmoud Abbas gave Ismail Haniyah, Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, refuge to save his live when Haniyeh feared being killed in an Israeli bombing or targetted assassination.

This story was told to me in an interview in Ramallah in late 2008 by Mahmoud Abbas’ oldest surviving son, Yasser Abbas [Mazen, the first-born male child in the family, died after surgery in Qatar some years ago].

I have since been told by others that Abu Mazen often tells people this same story:
Do you know a story – it’s important, before I tell you other stories about me – that this house that they [Hamas] seized [in Gaza in mid-June 2007], that Ismail Haniyeh took refuge in it twice. When he thought that Israeli jets were chasing him, he came to my parents’ house at 3:30 in the morning. To be exact, it was 3:25, because my Mom told me the details. They were still up, and they heard the bell ringing. And my Mom told my Dad, ‘Hold on, I’ll open the door’. She went to open the door, then she saw Ismail Haniyeh in her face. And then she saw Maher, one of the guards there, and he said to her, ‘Madam, we have so-and-so coming here’. And she ran back and told my Dad,’“Ismail Haniyeh is at the door’. He said, ‘Tell him to come in. Tell him to come in’. So, she automatically puts the lights on in the living room, for him to come in. She told him, ‘Come in, come in. Mr. President will come to see you in a minute’. So he came, and he was complaining to my Dad. He took refuge at his house in Gaza, because he was afraid that the Israelis were trying to nail him. And it happened again, three days later. He took refuge there for two or three hours, and then they left in the morning“…

Israel to withhold tax payments to PA because of pending Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal

According to a report by the Associated Press just published in Haaretz, Israel’s “Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz says he is delaying a cash transfer to the Palestinian Authority because of a new unity deal between rival Palestinian factions. Steinitz says he will hold up the transfer of $89 million in Palestinian tax funds and customs fees that Israel collects on the Palestinians’ behalf. Steinitz told Army Radio on Sunday that the money was supposed to be transferred this week but would remain in Israeli hands until it was clear it would not reach the militants of Hamas”. This story is published on the Haaretz website here.

The Fatah-Hamas reconciliation announcement was made in Cairo last Wednesday evening (about 12 hours after a second attack on a pipeline carrying Egyptian natural gas to Israel which has caused a second disruption in supplies to Israel, which receives about 40% of its natural gas from Egypt. The terms of the contract are highly concessionary, with the gas being sold to Israel — and apparently to Jordan as well — at prices substantially below the actual market price. The new Egyptian government has said it will take another look at the terms of the contract, also causing concern in Israel.)

The details of the reconciliation agreement have not yet been published in full. The signing ceremony is scheduled to take place in Cairo on Wednesday.

See our initial report on the reconciliation agreement here.

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