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The death of Yasir Arafat in 2004 was probably the precursor to the current seizure of political control by Hamas in the tiny enclave of the Gaza Strip in the past week, whilst he was the Chairman of the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organisation] though he was seen as a terrorist and Israel’s arch enemy he was also the influence adept at destabilising the warring factions of the PLO. The three major power blocks within the PLO were Hezbollah, Hamas and Al Fatah though the less militant of the three was the terrorist group that brought Arafat to the forefront of Middle East politics Al Fatah.
It was a question of survival, Hezbollah and Hamas were equally capable of subjugating Al Fatah but as with all giants both had an Achilles heel, which Arafat exploited to ensure the continued involvement of his own group Al Fatah.
To a great extent the internal wrangling within the PLO emasculated the two major power blocks and brought an uneasy stability to the Palestinian cause but from time to time it did overspill into outright conflict with the focus of their common hatred, Israel.

Immortality is the province of no earthly man and eventually Arafat died and with his death came the certainty that a power struggle would ensue. The various factions all had “Home Ground” and since Arafat’s death the factions have been consolidating to their individual home territories but with a common cause the eradication of Israel.
Hezbollah territory is North of Israel in the suburbs of Beirut and along the northern border with Israel. Hamas, a slightly smaller group embarked upon a “Social improvement” programme in the Gaza Strip to the south of Israel. Al Fatah under Yasir Arafat became the legitimate government of what became Palestine though Palestine is not a sovereign country but a State within the “State of Israel.” Comprising of the Gaza Strip [Annexed by Egypt but captured by Israel in 1967] and the territory seized by Israel from Jordan during the Six Day war of 1967 when Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the PLO tried to drive the Israeli’s into the sea. The territory seized from Syria, the Golan Heights was returned to Syria recently. The West Bank territory and The Gaza Strip became what is now known as Palestine. Al Fatah found itself elected to government and with that power came a compromise that is most probably at the root of the dissent between Al Fatah and Hamas today. All three groups Hezbollah, Hamas and Al Fatah had one ideal that denied Israel’s “Right to exist” that is they did until Al Fatah was forced to compromise and recognise the state of Israel. From that point onward the relationship between Al Fatah and Hamas has deteriorated.
Toward the latter months of 2006 there was nearly, so very nearly a civil war in Lebanon. It stemmed from an incident near the border with Israel and it was the detention by Hezbollah of soldiers from the Israeli army. The army unit in question was engaged upon a mission to control the ordinance being supplied by Syria and Iran to Hezbollah, which Hezbollah then used to attack Israel from inside Lebanon. Though the reason given for Israel’s retaliation, which virtually destroyed southern Beirut, was Hezbollah’s refusal to return the captured personnel the attacks upon civilian targets inside Israel were a more likely motive. A Hezbollah Commander openly boasted that he had 12,000 Katousha rockets trained upon Israel and he intended to use them. The precursor to Israeli action was the detention of its soldiers.

At the other end of Israel some days earlier a Hamas unit had tunnelled under the border and inside Israeli territory as far as the Israeli army checkpoint on the border between Israel and The Gaza Strip. They then mounted a surprise attack upon the checkpoint killing several Israeli soldiers and capturing two alive. They withdrew to Gaza and refused to return the captured personnel. The situation on the border at Gaza and the Hezbollah operation were essentially exactly the same, in the north the Israelis retaliated in force devastating Beirut in the south they did not. The only difference was the rocket attacks. The two incidents bore such similarity that the only conclusion to be drawn was that Hamas and Hezbollah were singing from the same hymn sheet. Al Fatah condemned the attacks and intervened to secure the Gazan captives return but in doing so demonstrated beyond question as far as Hamas was concerned that Al Fatah were seeking a peaceful coexistence with Israel contrary to the stated aims of the PLO. Some time before these incidents Al Fatah had changed its stance on Israel, they now recognised its “Right to exist” and the involvement of Al Fatah in securing the release of the Israeli soldiers was thought to be a test of its resolves.

Al Fatah’s power base is the West Bank Territory where two million Palestinians now live. In the other part of Palestine Al Fatah is not as strong as Hamas. Poverty stalks both enclaves and eighty percent of Palestinians are reliant upon international aid for their survival.  The purse strings of that aid are largely within the sphere of influence of the USA and in order to receive the aid Palestine [Al Fatah] has made concessions and compromises that have angered Hamas. Recently Hamas found itself elected to govern in Gaza in a replay of history that once put Al Fatah in the same position. The problem was that forty million dollars was being credited to Palestine from Israeli collected taxes every month with the codicil that if the amount fell short then the USA would make up the difference from American tax dollars. It was quickly realised that if Hamas took control in Gaza then the money would be paid to them. Hamas has never changed its denial of Israel’s “Right to Exist”; it has not renounced violence and is the sworn enemy of the USA. The aid was withdrawn because a situation could arise where in the event of a shortfall in the monthly payment American tax dollars could be paid to a terrorist organisation that would fund attacks on both Israel and the USA.

Hamas though elected with a mandate to rule has for a long time maintained that Al Fatah had governed Gaza corruptly and saw the attempts of Al Fatah preventing Hamas from taking overall control in Gaza as a blocking measure to stop Hamas discovering the truth of the level of corruption. The failure of Al Fatah to fulfil promised improvements to the lot of Palestinians was another “Stick to Beat the lazy donkey”. The deterioration of tolerance between Hamas and Al Fatah in Gaza reached an all time low in the past week when Hamas [The stronger militarily] began to target Al Fatah offices/organisations and structures inside Gaza.

Hamas has now taken control of Gaza and its one and a half million Palestinians and is tracking down and arresting anyone who was part of Al Fatah in what they describe as a “Coup d’tare” which seems to owe more to disorganised chaos than any plan to seize power. The burning buildings, the sound of small arms fire the lootings and destruction of anything that bears the name of Al Fatah are all characteristic of the known excesses of Hamas.

Al Fatah has virtually abandoned the Gaza strip to the mercy of Hamas but in the West Bank Al Fatah are now eradicating all trace of Hamas to the extent that it is almost impossible to discern any difference between picture from the streets of Ramala and Gaza city.
The respective terror groups are now all on their own home ground, Hamas in Gaza; Al Fatah on the West Bank and Hezbollah [with Syrian/Iranian support] in southern Lebanon, Israel is now surrounded once more by its enemies albeit that one, Al Fatah may not be the greatest threat.

The NGO’s [Non Governmental Organisations] in Gaza have for the most part suspended their work and as many of them are relief agencies the supplies of food and fresh water will diminish rapidly. The UN peacekeeping forces, which seem to have a permanent base in Gaza have suspended their operational duties. Armed units of Hamas are scouring the streets of Gaza city for any members of Al Fatah that are still at large. The situation in Gaza is as near as it can be to a civil war between the two terrorist factions. The Hamas takeover was made possible because the lack of Egyptian control over arms supplies smuggled across the deserts from Sudan, it increased the military capability of Hamas and provided the arms used in the takeover. The supplies of AK47’s and Chinese made weaponry shows little sign of abatement but a know gun runner has admitted to “Being more careful now that the Egyptians have taken an interest in doing their job”.

The current violence stemmed from a decision by the President Mahmoud Abbas [Al Fatah] to sack the Prime minister Ismail Haniya [Hamas] and appoint  Salam Fayyed [The Third way] as Prime Minister with a mandate to form a new government. The decision came on June 14th by June 15th the Palestinian state had two de facto governments neither recognising the authority of the other.

Ismail Haniya of Hamas maintains that orders and directives issued by the Palestinian President [Mahmoud Abbas] and the Palestinian National Authority [PNA] government[Prime Minister/Foreign Minister [Salam Fayyed] in Ramala have no validity in Gaza and should not be obeyed but they are adamant that Gaza will not declare itself an independent state. The question then is “What is Gaza”? If it does not recognise its own President and refuses direction from the government in Ramala is it part of the Palestinian state? If it is and Hamas continue to deny their government for whatever reasons does a state of civil war exist? What stance will Israel adopt? Surrounded on all sides by its enemies Israel has given an assurance that the Palestinians will not starve, it will be a curious dilemma for Hamas if its arch enemy Israel benevolently feeds both the one and a half million Garzans and the two million Palestinians on the West Bank with impartial favour. How will Hamas square the arrival of Israeli food with the people of the Garza Strip? If this is not yet a civil war then it soon will be and the likely result will be the fragmentation of the Palestinian state into two distinctly separate parts, Gaza governed by Hamas and the West Bank under the control of Al Fatah but as both are reliant upon Israel directly or indirectly for funding the final solution may well be a solution that neither of them can accept.


Posted: June 20, 2007 ,   Modified: June 20, 2007

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