Fighting breaks out in Gaza at memorial rally for Arafat

The Associated Press is reporting from Gaza that there have been many casualties in fighting that broke out today at a Fatah rally commemorating the third anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat. Figures are still coming in, but reports indicate that at least five persons have been killed, and 50 wounded.

It was the worst clash between the two largest Palestinian groups since Hamas routed Fatah in a military take-over of the Gaza Strip in mid-June.

AP reported that “Fatah officials accused Hamas forces of opening fire from the nearby Islamic University.  Hamas said its men had come under attack from Fatah gunmen and shot back”.

AP said in its report that: “The emotional memorial event for Arafat had given Fatah a rare chance to assemble its supporters in the Gaza Strip. Abbas has rejected any renewed dialogue with Hamas until the group relinquishes control of the Gaza Strip. Hamas has banned opposition rallies since its takeover of the territory but any move to prevent a remembrance ceremony for Arafat, the iconic leader who died on November 11, 2004, would have been widely unpopular among Palestinians … WAFA news agency, run by Abbas’s office, accused Hamas of stealing dozens of pictures of Arafat and 30,000 headdresses symbolizing the late leader, that came through an Israeli-run border crossing point earlier in the day. A pro-Hamas Internet site quoted a Hamas security official as saying trucks carrying yellow Fatah flags and hats were seized ‘at a time when the Gaza Strip is being deprived of basic goods and medicine’.” The AP report on the clashes and casualties at a Fatah rally in Gaza city is here

The most terrifying and emblematic image of the Hamas-Fatah fighting in Gaza

Amnesty International’s recent report, Torn Apart by factional strife, about the violations of Palestinian human rights as a result of the fighting between Hamas and Fatah, contains a detailed account of the most terrifying and emblematic image from last June’s combat in Gaza. First, Hamas threw somebody from Fatah off the top of a high-rise apartment buiding in Gaza City. Then, Fatah reciprocated.

These high-rise apartments were built only after the start of the Oslo Process between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which authorized the return of exiled Palestinian fighters from their camps in the deserts of Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan and elsewhere. These fighters were to serve as the security services of the Palestinian Authority that was set up by the Oslo Accords.

Here, from the Amnesty International report, is the “Testimony of F.H., a mechanic working with the Presidential Guard/Force 17:
On Sunday 10 June in the late morning, at about 10.30-11am, I and my colleague, Mohammed Swerki, who worked as a cook, were sent to deliver food to our colleagues who were in the Bacri Tower [a tall residential building in Gaza City]. However, we went to the wrong building by mistake; we went to the nearby Ghifari tower, where there was a Hamas group. When they opened the door downstairs we told them we were from Force 17 and they took us in and tied our hands and blindfolded us and took us upstairs; I don’t know if it was the top floor or one below. I don’t know if they were Qassam Brigades or Executive Force; they were dressed in black and masked. They asked me for names and telephone numbers of officers in Force 17 and which weapons they had and I said I didn’t know; I am a mechanic and my job was to repair cars and Mohammed was a cook; we were not involved in security issues. Then very quickly they left me and went to fight because they were being attacked by Force 17. Me and Mohammed were kept separate. At about 4 or 5 pm I heard screaming and the Hamas group came back to me and told me that Mohammed had fallen off the roof. They gave me water and allowed me to wash and pray. In the meantime some of my relatives had been alerted and there was intervention and someone came to get me and I was allowed to leave. Mohammed’s body was found in the street below the building; his hands were tied and he was blindfolded. He was 26 years old; he was married but did not yet have children’.

[n.b., when this writer was in Gaza last June, she heard that F.H. had been told, and believed, that he too was about to be thrown off the roof of the high-rise apartment building. He reportedly spent a long time in hospital, suffering from shock — and was unable to speak for many days]
Continue reading The most terrifying and emblematic image of the Hamas-Fatah fighting in Gaza

Hamas hasn't handled critics well, member says

One of the striking things about the present Palestinian situation is the strong emotions caused by the Hamas-Fatah rift. The stalwarts of each group are more angry with each other than they are with the Israelis.

If anything, an informal poll run by this author suggests that Fatah loyalists are more impassioned. Let Gaza be submerged by a tsunami, they say — and more. This is disturbingly short-sighted.

But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a Fatah leader now based in the West Bank capital city of Ramallah, also seems obsessed with punishing Hamas and putting it in its place. Late last week, he signed a money-laundering decree which he indicated would target Hamas. At the same moment, the Israeli Defense Minister was putting into place the final arrangments for tightening the isolation and siege of Hamas-run Gaza, supposedly in retaliation for Qassam rocket and mortar attacks on Israel. [note: could Abbas not also have signed a Presidential decree banning the Qassam and mortar attacks?]

Hamas says it acknowledges Abbas as President of the Palestinian Authority, and has called for talks with Ramallah. But Abbas clenches his teeth and refuses. No, not until they apologize, he says, for their miltary rout of Fatah in Gaza in mid-June. Not until Hamas reverses the effects of its acts, Abbas insists.

Hamas leaders seem particularly incensed by the lack of respect afforded them by Abbas. He did not respect the results of the Palestinian elections in which they took the majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, they say. Abbas, they believe, did not respect the Hamas ministers appointed to two governments that followed those elections — one government formed in the spring of 2006, and a “National Unity” government formed after Saudi Mediation in Mecca in the spring of 2007.

Hamas leaders do not say so much (though the rank and file do), but they believe, that Abbas is working in tandem with Israel and the U.S. Administration to marginalize and punish them. There is evidence to think so.

What Hamas really wants to resolve this crisis, apparently, is a proportion of seats in the Palestine Liberation Organization’s National Council (PNC), identical to the proportion of seats they won in the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Continue reading Hamas hasn't handled critics well, member says