Published July 01, 2005
RAMALLAH, West Bank – Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (search) has invited the Hamas militant group to join his Cabinet to help oversee the smooth handover of the Gaza Strip after Israel withdraws, a Hamas official said Friday.
Hamas is considering the offer, a senior Hamas (search) official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no decision has been made. The Islamic group's leadership in Gaza and abroad will have final say on whether to join Abbas' government, the official said.
Abbas made his offer this week after Hamas demanded a special committee be formed to oversee the transfer of powers in Gaza (search). Abbas rejected that demand, inviting Hamas to join his Cabinet instead, the official said.
Israel is worried that the lack of unity among security forces in Abbas' fledgling government will lead to chaos in the Gaza Strip after an evacuation in August.
Abbas has pledged to ensure a smooth transfer of powers and to prevent militants from firing on withdrawing soldiers and settlers. The Palestinian leader also says he will ensure the land Israel evacuates is taken over by his Palestinian Authority — not looters.
But as the withdrawal nears, a fragile truce Abbas reached with Hamas and other militant groups is falling apart. Israeli-Palestinian violence has increased in recent weeks after a lull following a cease-fire accord declared in February.