The Islamist resistance movement Hamas is trying to carry out a military coup to overthrow the Palestinian Authority, the powerful Civil Affairs Minister Mohammed Dahlan has charged.
Hamas and the main governing Fatah party reached an agreement on Wednesday to end their factional fighting, which saw Hamas fighters storm into a police station in the northern Gaza Strip, but Dahlan's comments in an interview published on Thursday underline the lingering tensions between the two sides.
"When someone tries to take over a police station by means of a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, that is an attempted military coup," Dahlan told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Dahlan said that Hamas wielded more power than the Palestinian Authority in its Gaza stronghold. "I am surprised that the PA has not collapsed yet," he added.
Abbas needs bolstering
The minister, who is the head of the Palestinian team negotiating with Israel about next month's pullout from Gaza, said that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon needed to do more to bolster the position of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
While the two leaders agreed in February to declare an end to violence, little progress has been made in the peace process since then.
A deal to transfer security responsibility in parts of the West Bank which was agreed to at the February summit has been largely unfulfilled.
"He (Sharon) has to do something serious to strengthen the peace camp in Palestinian society," he said. "Is the security situation better today than it was four months ago? And what have you done? Nothing."