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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Abbas Calls For Ousting Of Hamas

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Thursday for the overthrow of Gaza's Islamic Hamas rulers -- his first explicit demand that they be ousted.

"We have to bring down this bunch, which took over Gaza with armed force and is abusing the sufferings and pains of our people," Abbas said in a speech.

Hamas seized power in Gaza in June after routing forces loyal to Abbas' Fatah movement during five days of fighting. Abbas' spoke just days after Hamas opened fire on a mass Fatah rally in Gaza this week. Eight civilians were killed and dozens were wounded in Fatah's strongest challenge to Hamas in Gaza since the takeover.

In the past, Abbas, who has set up a separate government in the West Bank, has not gone beyond demanding that Hamas apologize for overrunning Gaza and reverse the takeover. Abbas aides said he wasn't calling for an uprising, but used unprecedentedly strong language against the Hamas regime because he was so furious about the bloodshed at the demonstration.

In his speech, Abbas also lashed out against "the outlawed gangs affiliated with Hamas in Gaza City."

Despite Abbas' tough words Thursday, he wields little control over Gaza. And following Monday's rally, Hamas has taken new steps to shore up its rule.

Hamas rounded up more than 400 Fatah activists this week and on Wednesday announced media restrictions and plans to curb public gatherings.