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Fatah-Hamas conflict
Date

December 15, 2006 – January, 2008

Place

Gaza Strip (mostly), West Bank

Result

Indecisive

Combatants

Hamas

Fatah

Commanders

Ismail Haniya
Khaled Meshaal
Mohammed Deif

Mahmoud Abbas
Mohammed Dahlan

Strength

Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades: 15,000
Executive Force: 6,000[1][2]

National Security: 30,000
Preventive Security Service: 30,000
General Intelligence: 5,000
Presidential Guard: 4,200
Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade: Several thousand[1][2]

Casualties

83 killed

165 killed

Civilian casualties

98 civilians killed
1,000+ wounded on both sides

The Fatah-Hamas conflict (Al-Nizāʿ bain Fataḥ wa Ḥamās), also referred to as the Palestinian Civil War (Arabic: الحرب الأهلية الفلسطينية Al-Ḥarb al-ʾAhliyyah al-Filisṭīnīyah), and the Conflict of Brothers (Arabic: صراع الأخوة Ṣirāʿ al-Ikhwah), began in 2006 and continued, in one form or another, into 2008. The conflict is between the two main Palestinian parties, Fatah and Hamas. The majority of the fighting had occurring in the Gaza Strip where fighting began after Hamas' legislative victories. Hamas remains in control of the Gaza Strip. The conflict is called Wakseh among Palestinians, meaning humiliation, ruin, and collapse as a result of self-inflicted damage.

BackgroundEdit

The tensions between Hamas and Fatah began to rise in 2005 after the death of longtime PLO leader Yasser Arafat who died on November 11, 2004, and intensified after Hamas won the elections of 2006.

2006 elections Edit

Main article: Palestinian legislative election, 2006

Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections. As a result, Israel, the United States, the European Union, several Western states and the Arab states imposed sanctions suspending all foreign aid, upon which Palestinians depend. Despite the sanctions, and incidences of successful border interdiction,[3] Hamas leaders were able to smuggle enough money into the Palestinian territories to maintain basic health and educational services.[4] The defeated Fatah party maintains control of most of the Palestinian security apparatus. The US administration funded and armed Abbas's Presidential Guard and Gaza based Fatah warlord, Mohammed Dahlan.[5]

U.S. funding, weapons and training for Fatah Edit

During 2006 and 2007, the United States supplied guns, ammunition and training to Palestinian Fatah activists to take on Hamas in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank in a U.S. effort that cost $59 million and covertly persuaded Arab allies to supply more funding. A large number of Fatah activists were trained and "graduated" from two West Bank camps while Jordan and Egypt trained two Fatah battalions, one of which was deployed to Gaza in May.[6][7][8]

According to Vanity Fair, in 2006 the United States initiated a "covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war."[9]

March 2006 to December 2006 rise of tensionsEdit

The period from March to December 2006 was marked by tensions when Fatah commanders refused to take orders from the government while the Palestinian Authority initiated a campaign of assassinations and abductions against Hamas which led to Hamas beginning their own. Tensions grew additionally between the two Palestinian factions after they failed to reach a deal to share government power. On December 15, Abbas called for Palestinian general election.[10] Hamas has challenged the legality of holding an early election maintaining their right to hold the full term of their democratically elected offices. Hamas has characterized this as an attempted Fatah coup by Abbas,[11] using undemocratic means to overthrow the results of a democratically elected government.

According to one Palestinian rights group, more than 600 Palestinians were killed in fighting from January 2006 to May 2007.[12] A serious escalation in the violence was marked by the 2006 Rimal neighborhood shootings.

Conflict Edit

Main article: Timeline of the Fatah-Hamas conflict

First round of fighting Edit

On December 15, 2006, fighting broke out in the West Bank after Palestinian security forces fired on a Hamas rally in Ramallah. At least 20 people were wounded in the clashes which came shortly after Hamas accused Fatah of attempting to assassinate Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister.[13]

Intense fighting continued throughout December 2006 and January 2007 in the Gaza Strip. Several ceasefire attempts failed, being broken by continued battles. In February 2007, Palestinian rivals met in the Islamic holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia and reached an accord ensuring a ceasefire. However, minor incidents continued through March and April 2007. More than 90 people were killed in these first months.

Second round of fightingEdit

In mid-May 2007, clashes erupted once again in the streets of Gaza. In less than 20 days, more than 50 Palestinians were killed. Leaders of both parties tried to stop the fighting with dozens of truces, but none of them held for longer than a few days.

By most accounts, Hamas performed better than Fatah in the second round of fighting. Some attribute this to the discipline and better training of Hamas' fighters,[14] as most of the casualties have been from the Fatah faction. However, Fatah's armed forces are greater in numbers and security officials from Israel and the United States allege that Hamas downplayed its casualties.

Third round of fighting: Gaza: Hamas reasserts controlEdit

Main article: Battle of Gaza (2007)

Throughout the four days of fighting Hamas had taken control of the main north-south road and the coastal road.[15] The Israeli government closed all check-points on borders of Gaza in response to the violence. During the four days of intense fighting at least 116 people were killed.

West Bank: Fatah wins and establishes a separate governmentEdit

The attacks of Hamas gunmen against Fatah security forces in the Gaza Strip resulted in a reaction of Fatah gunmen against Hamas institutions in West Bank. Although Hamas' numbers are greater in the Gaza Strip, Fatah forces are greater in the West Bank.

On June 14, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the dissolution of the current unity government and the declaration of a state of emergency.[16][17] Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya was dismissed, and Abbas began to rule Gaza and the West Bank by presidential decree. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded by declaring that President Abbas' decision was "in practical terms...worthless", asserting that Haniya "remains the head of the government even if it was dissolved by the president".[18]

Nathan Brown of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace comments that under the 2003 Palestinian Constitution Abbas clearly has the right to declare a state of emergency and dismiss the Prime Minister, but the state of emergency can only continue for 30 days. After that it would need to be renewed by the (Hamas-dominated) Legislative Council, which also constrains the breadth of his emergency powers. Neither Hamas nor Fatah currently have enough votes to form a new government under the constitution.[19] The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights condemns Hamas's "decision to resolve the conflict militarily " but argues that "steps taken by President Mahmoud Abbas in response to these events violate the Basic Law and undermine the Basic Law in a manner that is no less dangerous."[20]

On June 15, Abbas appointed Salam Fayyad as prime minister and gave him the task of forming a new government.[21]

The West Bank had its first casualty when the bullet-riddled body of a Hamas militant was found in Nablus, sparking the fear Fatah would use its advantage in the West Bank for retaliation against its members' deaths in the Gaza Strip[22] On the same day, Hamas also declared that it was in full control of Gaza, a claim denied by Abbas.[23]

On June 16, Fatah-linked militant group, the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, stormed Hamas-controlled parliament based in Ramallah in the West Bank. This act, including the ransack of the ministry of education, has been seen as a reaction to similar looting occurring following Hamas' military success in Gaza.

On June 20, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar declared that if Fatah continued to try to uproot Hamas in the West Bank, it could lead to Fatah's downfall there as well. He would not deny when asked that Hamas resistance against Fatah would take the form of attacks and suicide bombings similar to those Hamas has used against Israel in the past.[24]

Renewed clashes in GazaEdit

On October 17, clashes erupted in eastern Gaza between Hamas security forces and members of the powerful Heles clan (Fatah-affiliated), leaving up to two dead on both sides. Fatah and Hamas officials gave conflicting accounts of what caused the fighting but the dispute seems to have originated when Hamas officials demanded that the clan return a governmental car. Another gun battle on October 20, killed one member of the clan and a 13-year-old boy.[25] During the same day, in Rafah, one woman was killed and eight people were injured when Hamas security members traded fire with Islamic Jihad activists. Two days later, 7 more Palestinians were killed in the internal fighting, including some Hamas militants and a Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant.[26]

On November 12, a large demonstration dedicated to the memory of late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat was organized by Fatah in Gaza City. With over 200,000 participants, this was the largest Fatah demonstration in the Gaza strip since the Hamas takeover. The demonstration was forcibly dispersed by Hamas gunmen, who fired into the crowd. At least six civilians were killed and over 80 people were injured, some from being trampled in the resulting stampede.[27] The smaller militant group Islamic Jihad, whose members have clashed with Hamas several times, condemned the shootings.

On January 1, 2008, at least eight people died in factional fighting in the Gaza Strip.[28]

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3360655,00.html
  2. 2.0 2.1 http://www.latimes.com/wireless/avantgo/la-fg-palestinians17may17,0,6814988.story
  3. http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200606/s1663270.htm
  4. http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/comment/0,,1975124,00.html
  5. U.S. offers plan to strengthen Abbas IHT, 4/10/2006
  6. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/IA09Ak03.html
  7. http://mondediplo.com/2007/07/06gaza
  8. http://www.iiss.org/publications/strategic-comments/past-issues/volume-13---2007/volume-13-issue-5/hamas-coup-in-gaza/
  9. http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/04/gaza200804/
  10. http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200612/s1813209.htm
  11. http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200612/s1813233.htm
  12. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3409548,00.html
  13. http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/793DD747-A1B7-4BE3-B120-0CF171612495.htm
  14. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5016012.stm
  15. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6748621.stm
  16. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,282195,00.html
  17. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/06/14/wgaza614.xml
  18. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6754499.stm
  19. http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=18738&prog=zgp&proj=zdrl,zme
  20. http://www.pchrgaza.ps/files/PressR/English/2007/41-2007.htm
  21. President Abbas prepares to swear in unelected interim government
  22. [1],jpost.com
  23. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6755299.stm
  24. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/21/world/middleeast/21mideast.html
  25. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1192380585473
  26. http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L21678672.htm
  27. http://www.reuters.com/article/homepageCrisis/idUSL12626820._CH_.2400
  28. BBC NEWS | Middle East |Eight dead in Gaza faction clash

External linksEdit

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