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There are signs that Fatah is preparing to launch a major operation against Hamas in the West Bank in the coming weeks ahead of expected turmoil when President Mahmoud Abbas’s term as PA president ends in January, a top Israeli army officer has told The Jerusalem Post.
Abbas’s presidential term is scheduled to end on January 9, and the Israeli army’s Central Command is preparing for the possibility that Hamas will try to take advantage of political instability in Ramallah to take over West Bank towns and cities.
In the absence of elections or a compromise with Hamas, according to the Palestinian Authority constitution, Abbas will be replaced by the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Abdel Aziz Dweik, a member of Hamas who has been in an Israeli prison since August 2006.
The senior officer said there was evidence that Fatah forces were planning a widespread West Bank operation against Hamas infrastructure and terrorist cells to weaken the Islamist group ahead of potential clashes in January.
“There are signs that Fatah is preparing something,” the officer told the Jerusalem Post, adding that the army had yet to decide what it would do under such circumstances – interfere or stay on the sidelines.
“There is no doubt, however, that we are in favor of Fatah taking responsibility for law and order in the West Bank, and that naturally includes cracking down on Hamas,” he said.
The Israeli army, according to JPost has already begun assisting Abbas ahead of the expected violence. Two weeks ago the army agreed to allow a platoon of 150 PA soldiers to deploy in Al-Khalil, a Hamas stronghold.
The daily added that the platoon recently left for Jordan, where it is undergoing US-directed training, and is scheduled to return to the West Bank in late December.
“The idea is to strengthen Fatah in a city where Hamas is believed to be strong to be able to counter the potential threat,” the officer said.
Meanwhile Saturday, PA officials told the London-based daily Asharq al-Awsat that Hamas might try to carry out a “hostile takeover” of the West Bank to bring down the Fatah-led government.
Palestinian sources told the pan-Arab paper that security forces were maintaining the highest level of alert and were acting preemptively by arresting Hamas operatives and cracking down on Hamas institutions.
2008-10-05 21:01:33 Print
JERUSALEM, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) —
At the beginning of July, people in the West Bank and Gaza were relieved to hear that high-school graduation results in both of the occupied territories were to be made public at the same time – there had been a rumour that Gaza’s ministry of education would publish its own results a day early. That shows the anxiety that has existed since June 2007 when Palestinian self-rule became dual – with one administration run by Fatah in Ramallah in the West Bank, and another by Hamas in Gaza. “But this doubling of authority hasn’t affected the ministries in charge of essential services [education, health and social security],” people say, seeking to reassure themselves. The madness of this dual regime does have its limits, then.
People tell you: “Everyone here knows the rift only serves the Israeli occupation, and it’s Israel, not the two ‘governments’, which holds the real power.” At the end of August, however, this warning seemed to fall on deaf ears: just as a new round of Egyptian-sponsored talks aimed at reconciling Fatah and Hamas was due to begin, the Fatah-affiliated trade unions in Ramallah called on Gaza’s public sector workers to strike.
However, for just a few days in mid-July, Palestinian society had become one big village again. Everyone knew who had done well in their exams and who had failed. In the West Bank the results were celebrated in the usual fashion, with guns fired into the air. Despite public criticism, the Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces have not managed to put a stop to this dangerous tradition. Whereas in Gaza, not a single gunshot was heard – the Hamas police do enforce the ban on gunfire at social events.
In Gaza, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh gave a bursary to the best student and promised dozens more to students in both parts of the occupied territories. He was acting just as if he was still prime minister of the legal Hamas government elected in January 2006. But in June 2007, President Mahmoud Abbas had dismissed him and his newly formed national unity government, after Hamas had defeated the Fatah-dominated security forces and taken military control of Gaza.
The million-and-a-half inhabitants of the Gaza Strip suffer the consequences of the dual authority every day, and the animosity between Hamas and Fatah. They also pay the price of the crippling Israeli blockade, which is directly responsible for the number of Gazans living in poverty: 79.4% (based on income levels) or 51.8% (based on consumption levels), compared with 45.7% and 19.1% in the West Bank (1).
The international embargo and Israeli blockade imposed after the 2006 elections initially targeted both the West Bank and Gaza. When Haniyeh was dismissed and the two territories split politically, they were lifted in the West Bank, providing some relief for the two-and-a-half million Palestinians there, but widening the gulf with Gaza. More
Hamas condemns “false” media reports on rift between grassroots and leadership
[ 05/10/2008 – 07:03 PM ]
RAMALLAH, (PIC)– The Hamas Movement in the West Bank has categorically denied Sunday the “false” reports on a deep rift between Hamas’s base and the Movement’s leadership in the West Bank.