Abbas pitches for hardliners with talk of 'Zionist enemy'

Mahmoud Abbas made an unabashed pitch to a boisterous rally of the Fatah faithful last night after angering Ariel Sharon's ministers by referring to Israel as the "Zionist enemy" for the killing of seven young Palestinians in Gaza.

Mahmoud Abbas made an unabashed pitch to a boisterous rally of the Fatah faithful last night after angering Ariel Sharon's ministers by referring to Israel as the "Zionist enemy" for the killing of seven young Palestinians in Gaza.

The remark by the PLO chairman and favourite to succeed Yasser Arafat focused fresh attention on his awkward, self-imposed task of condemning militant violence while courting the support of the armed factions ahead of Sunday's presidential election.

After tank-fire killed the Palestinians in Beit Lahiya, in the north of the strip, Mr Abbas told a gathering of southern Gaza supporters: "We came to you today, while we are praying for the souls of the martyrs who were killed today by the shells of the Zionist enemy."

The tank-fire, which killed six members of the same family, named Raban, aged between 10 and 16, and another aged 22, was retaliation for Palestinian mortar attacks on the Erez industrial zone between Israel and Gaza that slightly wounded two Israeli civilians. The army said the shelling had been targeted at a militant, rocket-launching cell and that most of the Palestinians killed were members of Hamas's military wing.

The remark by Mr Abbas, who has consistently criticised the four-year-old armed intifada against Israel, was "intolerable and unacceptable" said Ehud Olmert, the deputy Israeli Prime Minister. Signifiying that any allowances made for Mr Abbas's language in the election period would not apply after polling day, he added: "After 9 January, we will relate to such comments and judge them differently than we do now."

Mr Abbas, widely known as Abu Mazen, later made a speech at a 2,000-strong rally of mainly party activists as but he did not repeat the remark, referring instead to "our brothers now killed in Gaza". He was frequently interrupted by chants of "Abu Mazen is shaking the ground" from young Fatah members. With a chequered keffiyeh round his neck, Mr Abbas invoked the memory of Yasser Arafat "the martyr" and said the late president could "rest secure" in the knowledge that "young Fatah will continue the march". The audience at the rally, a testament to the formidable power of Fatah's electoral machine, also held older men and women, a few with children, who sat impassively through the hubbub.

The hall was packed with hundreds of supporters but thinned out later as Mr Abbas was several times forced to pause by chants from the Fatah youth, many standing on chairs.

He repeated promises that the Palestinian leadership would not forget militants sought by the Israelis, and added: "We will ensure their rights to live an honourable life."

But Mr Abbas also reinforced his condemnation of rocket attacks on Israeli civilians as "useless", referring to the death of a woman and child in one attack and declaring: "If we are attacked we defend ourselves but we don't do something that will kill innocent people". He added: "Nobody will be above the law." Mr Abbas has refused a demand from armed factions in Gaza to apologise for his remarks on rocket attacks.

Mr Abbas repeated remarks, which have also irritated Israeli politicians, endorsing the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees to the homes their families left in the war of Israeli independence in 1948. But he stopped short of explicitly saying he will be demanding that all refugees will be free to return to their original homes inside Israel.

Mohammed Ishtiya, the director of Mr Abbas's campaign, has indicated that the PLO chairman's primary task immediately after being elected would be to continue a dialogue with the leadership of all the armed factions aimed at halting to violence, which would assist a return to the internationally agreed road map to peace.

Mr Ishtiya said that the campaign was trying to project Mr Abbas as a "statesman" rather than just a "candidate" for the presidency, while acknowledging that the 69-year-old Mr Abbas, long seen as a somewhat grey and bureaucratic, if venerable, member of the PLO hierarchy, was having to make the transition from "the man who was used to delivering lectures to one who delivers speeches".

In Ramallah, Ramsi Jaber, 32, dismissed accusations that Mr Abbas was a "man in a suit", ill-fitted to lead a hitherto revolutionary movement. "[Arafat was] a military man and a symbol for the Palestinian people. Abu Mazen is a politician which makes it right for him to wear a suit. Do you expect him to negotiate carrying a Kalashnikov?"

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

DT Teacher - Textiles

£100 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We urgently require a DT t...

Year 1 Teacher for long term roles starting in September

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Year 6 Teachers needed for long term and day to day roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Year 5 Teachers needed for various roles across Berkshire

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week