Hamas critique removed from Palestinians’ Abbas comments on Israel attack

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(Reuters) – The Palestinian Authority’s official news agency published comments on Sunday by President Mahmoud Abbas that criticized Hamas over its actions but later removed reference to the militant group without providing an explanation.

The comments, published by WAFA on its website, came during a phone call between Abbas and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The two discussed Israel’s bombardment of Gaza following Hamas’ deadly rampage through Israeli cities.

The original WAFA report on Abbas’ call included the line: “The president also stressed that Hamas’ policies and actions do not represent the Palestinian people, and the policies, programs and decisions of the (Palestine Liberation Organization) represent the Palestinian people as their sole legitimate representative.”

Several hours later, the phrase was adjusted to read: “The president also stressed that the policies, programs, and decisions of the PLO represent the Palestinian people as their sole legitimate representative, and not the policies of any other organization.”

It was not immediately clear why the reference to Hamas was removed. There was no immediate comment by Abbas’ office or by WAFA. Hamas had no immediate comment.

Abbas’ Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. He has long been opposed to Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007 and ousted Fatah party forces loyal to Abbas. Years of reconciliation talks between the rivals have failed to reach a breakthrough.

Abbas also heads the PLO, the umbrella group that represented the Palestinians in past U.S.-sponsored peace talks with Israel.

During his call with Maduro, Abbas “affirmed his rejection of the killing of civilians on both sides and called for the release of civilians, prisoners and detainees,” the WAFA report said.

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