Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

JAFFA, Israel – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his office today slammed as “barbaric” and “unnecessary” Israel’s air strikes in Gaza, but according to top diplomatic sources in Jerusalem, Abbas for months now has been petitioning Israel to launch a massive military raid against his Hamas rivals in Gaza.

The sources, speaking to WND on condition of anonymity, said Abbas and his top representatives have waged a quiet campaign for months asking the Israeli government to target Hamas in Gaza just before his term in office is scheduled to expire on Jan. 9.

Hamas leaders have repeatedly warned they will not recognize Abbas after the 9th, and that they will launch a major campaign to delegitimize the PA president and install their own figures to lead the Palestinian government.

Abbas hopes a large-scale Israeli military campaign in Gaza would distract Hamas from attempting to undermine his rule, the diplomatic sources told WND.

“It’s an open secret among the diplomatic and military brass,” one Israeli diplomatic source said. “The campaign from Abbas for us to attack Hamas in Gaza has been intensive.”

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The source insisted, however, that today’s airstrikes were not aimed at helping Abbas, and that Israel hoped to quickly conclude a cease-fire agreement with Hamas whereby Israeli military operations would be suspended.

Despite reported behind-the-scenes advocacy of action against Hamas, Abbas today publicly chastised Israel for the Gaza airstrike.

Speaking during a visit to Saudi Arabia, he told reporters, “There are no reasons for the Israeli raids.”

Abbas’ office in the West Bank released a statement condemning the raids as Israeli “aggression” and calling for restraint.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, an aid to Abbas, called Israel’s actions in Gaza “barbaric.”

Hamas planning new PLO to compete with U.S.-backed Abbas

In a move that could have monumental ramifications, the Hamas terrorist organization is quietly working to create its own Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO, to compete with the well-known group of the same namesake headed by Abbas, Hamas officials told WND earlier this week.

The effort is part of a larger expected Hamas campaign to delegitimize Abbas after Jan. 9.

According to sources close to Abbas, of all the moves Hamas is planning, the PA chief is most worried about the creation of a second PLO to compete with the group he heads, which has long been dominated by his Fatah party.

The PLO has been recognized since the 1960s as the sole representative body of the Palestinian people and is the signatory of major agreements with Israel, including the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Hamas officials told WND their group is in the process of building a second PLO, which would be a grand coalition of major Palestinian groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command in Lebanon, and even part of the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which has until now leaned toward Fatah.

According to sources in Hamas, some members of Fatah, including Faruq Al-Khadumi, chief of the political bureau of the PLO, assisted in a recent meeting in which Hamas presented the possibility of creating a new PLO.

The original PLO was founded by late-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian figures in 1964. It incorporates major Palestinian groups friendly to Fatah, including the PFLP.

The creation of a new PLO might be the final nail in Abbas’ political coffin after his term in office expires. Top Hamas officials told WND in recent interviews that their group, which won 2006 parliamentary elections, will no longer recognize Abbas after Jan. 9.

“At midnight on the 10th, we are removing all of Abu Mazen’s (Abbas’) pictures from official buildings and institutions throughout the Gaza Strip,” Mahmoud al-Zahar, chief of Hamas in Gaza, told WND.

“Do you believe in democracy?” al-Zahar asked, speaking by cell phone from Gaza. “If you do then you will accept that Abbas will no longer be the president. Legally, the leadership of the PA falls to us until new elections are held.”

Abbas has said he will take advantage of a law whereby he can declare emergency rule and remain PA president until early 2010.

A new poll published by the Western-oriented Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research released earlier this month showed 64 percent of Palestinians believe Abbas’ term should not be prolonged. Only 24 percent believe he should remain in office.

The polls seem to reflect larger trends within Palestinian society that are likely deeply troubling for Abbas. During the 2006 elections, Hamas not only won two-thirds of the vote, but the terror group swept the vote in important so-called refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria, in spite of Fatah’s strong presence there. The numbers proved Hamas has major support in the camps, which could be instrumental in its plans to establish another PLO.

The move could have major ramifications for U.S. and Israeli policy. Both countries consider Fatah to be moderate and have engaged in talks seeking to create a Fatah-led Palestinian state. And since most major Israeli-Palestinian agreements are signed by the PLO, the creation of a new organization could signal the end of Palestinian responsibility to the agreements if a second PLO indeed takes off.

Meanwhile, Abbas has successfully enlisted the help of Egypt in slowing down the emergence of a new PLO.

According to officials in Hamas speaking to WND, the group originally planned to debut the competing PLO before January. But, the officials said, Egypt last month pressed Syria to petition Hamas to halt their efforts for the time being, pending the outcome of political uncertainty after Abbas’ term expires. The Hamas officials said they will wait until at least January.

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