The charges are the most serious yet in the war of words between Mr Abbas, who controls the West Bank, and Hamas, whose Islamist guerrillas expelled his Fatah-dominated security force from the Gaza Strip last summer.
“Al-Qaeda is present in Gaza and I’m convinced that they [Hamas] are their allies,” said Mr Abbas in an interview with al-Hayat, a London-based Arabic newspaper. “I can say without doubt that al-Qaeda is present in the Palestinian territories and that this presence, especially in Gaza, is facilitated by Hamas.”
Israel has long accused al-Qaeda of infiltrating the Palestinian territories. The Israeli army’s intelligence chief said this week that more al-Qaeda members had entered the Gaza Strip after Hamas blew up the wall on the Egyptian border in January.
Since the U.S.-led military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001, al-Qaeda has responded by splintering into affiliate groups that work along the same lines as the parent group but have a wider degree or organizational latitude. One of the newest may be taking shape in Gaza. The Israeli Ministry of Defense recently reported that al-Qaeda members had crossed from Egypt into the Gaza Strip after Israel's withdrawal from the territory. If al-Qaeda gains a foothold in Gaza, it would be a most disturbing development not only for the Arab-Israeli peace process, but for America's counterterrorism efforts as well.