Sunday, January 07, 2007

FEATURE: Signs of Hamas-Fatah Tensions by Mohammed Mar'i

Signals of real confrontation among Fateh and Hamas rose
By Mohammed Mar'i
Arab American Media Services

(Permission granted to reprint with full attribution to the author and Arab American Media Services.)

(Ramallah , Occupied Palestine) -- The 7th of January used to be a day celebrations and happiness for the Christian sects who follow the eastern calendar in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas used to attend the festivities at Bethlehem as a mark of unity between Muslims and Christians in Palestine. This Year, the running deterioration in the Palestinian cities due to fighting between Fateh and Hamas over power, prevailed the scene.

The tension, Chaos, fighting, and kidnapping of Gaza among Hamas and Fateh movements expands to the West Bank on Saturday. In the West Bank city of Nablus, Fatah gunmen kidnapped the deputy mayor of Nablus, Mahdi al-Hanbali, who is affiliated with Hamas. , Marwan Kadumi a lecturer from A-Najah University in Nablus was seriously wounded on when he was shot by gunmen in his home in the West Bank town by six militants apparently belonging to the Fatah-linked Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The lecturer is also known Hamas supporter.

In Ramallah, Fatah gunmen kidnapped Ihab Suleiman, the director of Said Siam's Interior Ministry office. Suleiman was released later after having been shot seriously in the legs.

The high tension in the West Bank and Gaza followed Abbas decision to outlaws Hamas Executive Force controlled by Interior Minister Siam, and headed by Yousif Al Zahhar, brother of Mahmoud Al Zahhar, Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affaires.
Abbas said all Executive Force members would be banned from operating in the Gaza Strip unless they agreed to join the PA security forces. The Interior Ministry rejected Abbas' decision and announced its plans to increase the size of its force to 12,000.

Islam Shahwan, spokesman for the Hamas Executive Force, said Saturday that the force would be doubled and that "recruitment has begun and we are calling on every loyal citizen to prepare himself to join the force."

Several months ago, Abbas agreed to include the Executive Force in the ranks of forces controlled by the Interior Ministry. Its force then was about 5500 members mainly from Hamas military wing, Iz al-Din al-Qassam and the Popular Resistance Committees.

However, following an attack by members of the Hamas Executive force against the home of a Fatah security commander in Gaza, killing him and seven of his bodyguards, Abbas decided to label the Executive Force as "outside the law."

Abbas' office said the decision was made "in light of the continued security chaos and assassinations that got to a number of our fighters ... and in light of the failure of existing agencies and security apparatuses in imposing law and order and protecting the security of the citizens."

Abbas said the force is" illegal" and that "creating any force needs a decree and this decree has not been issued. Anyone who says this is an independent force is going against the law and the constitution," he said in Bethlehem.

On the Fateh side, they are strengthening its military wing in the West Bank by recruiting supporters so as to show balance to that of Hamas in Gaza. Egypt, Jordan and the United States are trying to aid security apparatus loyal to Abbas with guns and ammunition, and to deploy Badr Brigade from Jordan to Gaza.

The majority of Palestinians questioned if there is a necessity for this military recruitment whereas the internal security is absent and that the Palestinian is threatened every moment?

They also questioned about the necessity of additional security apparatus whereas about 65,000 security servants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip?

They fear that Fatah and Hamas prepare for a real confrontation in all Palestinian cities. Observers see that even if a unity government is formed, it will only postpone the crisis between the two rivals. The rise in demand for arms by Hamas and Fateh doubled the prices. The price of U.S. made" M-16 rifle" jumped from 8,450 $ to 14,200$.

(Mohammed Mar'i is a Palestinian journalist based in Ramallah.)