(by Joshua Mitnick, WashingtonTimes.com) TEL AVIV — Rival Palestinian factions reported a cease-fire deal yesterday after militants fired on the entourage of Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahar of Hamas and mortar shells landed near the Gaza residence of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Mr. Abbas’ call for early elections seemed to only fuel the escalation toward a Hamas-Fatah civil war.
But Hamas official Ismail Rudwan told Reuters news agency that the groups had agreed to resume talks on forming a unity government, halt armed displays, return security forces to their headquarters, release men abducted by each side and end a siege of government ministries. A top Fatah official later confirmed the agreement.
In the day after Mr. Abbas’ nationally televised invective against Hamas, the militants from Fatah took over two government ministries and Gaza Strip residents stayed off the streets for fear of getting caught in the crossfire. Still, internecine fighting took the lives of two Palestinians in Gaza — a member of the president’s security detail and a 19-year-old woman in Gaza City — and wounded dozens.
In an earlier attack blamed on Hamas, dozens of gunmen raided a training camp of Mr. Abbas’ Presidential Guard near his residence, killing a member of the elite force.
After nightfall, the bullet-riddled body of a top security officer affiliated with Fatah, Col. Adnan Rahmi, was discovered in northern Gaza several hours after he disappeared, the Associated Press reported, citing Palestinian medical officials and his family. No group took responsibility, but Col. Rahmi’s family blamed Hamas for the killing.
Responding to the early election challenge for the first time, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said the Islamist militants wouldn’t participate in the vote.
“The speech of Abbas isn’t unifying, but it is incendiary,” and it “offends the martyrs of the Palestinian people,” he said.
Mr. Abbas, who took the gamble of agreeing to stand for re-election as well as hold new parliamentary elections, met with members of the Palestinian Election Commission yesterday to signal that he was serious about early elections.
A poll released by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey taken before the speech indicated Mr. Abbas’ proposal got 61 percent approval rating. The same poll showed Mr. Abbas and Mr. Haniyeh running a statistical dead heat in a theoretical presidential showdown.
Meanwhile, approval ratings of Palestinian parties and leaders have dropped across the board.
“The street is divided, but more people support this action [Abbas] is entertaining,” said Said Zeedani, a Ramallah-based political analyst. “People want to see a way out of this situation. He is conscious of that. Without the support of the street, a lot of this speech is mere words.”
During Mr. Abbas’ address on Saturday, the president omitted a timetable for a new election, a move seen as signaling the possibility of renewed talks with Hamas.
Palestinians, by and large, oppose the fighting as a disastrous implosion of their six-year uprising against Israel, and they also know that Hamas-Fatah turf wars and bad blood have a dynamic that is spinning out of control.
“Whenever there is tension, Fatah and Hamas lose in popularity,” said Jamil Rabah, the director of the public opinion research firm Near East Consulting. “People want unity, they want brothers to act as brothers, and they don’t want war.”
And even as an Egyptian negotiator arrived to begin calming the sides, the atmosphere in Palestinian territories reflected more the partisan rivalry. Fatah rallies in Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp, central Ramallah and the northern West Bank city of Jenin drew more than 100,000 supporters.
Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator, said she supports elections as long as both sides agree to them.
“The current dynamic cannot be sustained. … We have total paralysis in the political system. We are facing a serious disintegration.”
Copyright 2006 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com
1. a) Hamas is the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority’s government. They hold the majority of seats in the Parliament as well as the office of Prime Minister. What is the name of the Prime Minister?
b) Fatah is now the minority party. They hold the office of President. What is the name of the President of the Palestinian Authority?
2. Fatah and Hamas have recently agreed to work out their differences to end fighting between their two groups. List the items to which they have agreed.
3. How did Prime Minister Haniyeh react to President Abbas’ call for an early re-election?
4. a) Why is it risky for President Abbas to call for an early election?
b) Do you think his motives for calling for an early election are sincere? Explain your answer.
5. Why are members of Hamas and Fatah, all Palestinians, attacking and killing one another?
6. How do the Palestinian people view the fighting between the two groups, according to the article?
7. What do you think can/should be done to end the coflict among Palestinians, and then the conflict between the Palestinian and Jewish people?
ON THE RULING PALESTINIAN POLITICAL PARTIES FATAH AND HAMAS
Fatah ruled the Palestinian Authority from its establishment in 1994 until 2006. It is a major secular Palestinian political party and the largest organization in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a generally secular multi-party confederation. In Palestinian politics it is on the center-left of the spectrum. It is mainly secular and nationalist although not predominantly socialist.
In the January 25, 2006 parliamentary election, the party lost its majority in the Palestinian parliament to Hamas, and resigned all cabinet positions, instead assuming the role as the main opposition party. It has since been described oftentimes in the media as the more “moderate” party, although many dispute this due to its past actions and current policies. (from Wikipedia.org)
Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni Islamist organization that currently (since January 2006) forms the majority party of the Palestinian National Authority.
Created in 1987 by Shaikh Ahmed Yassin of the Gaza wing of the Muslim Brotherhood at the beginning of the First Intifada, Hamas is known outside the Palestinian territories for its suicide bombings and other attacks directed against Israeli civilians, as well as military and security forces targets. Hamas’ charter (written in 1988 and still in effect) calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. The charter states: “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.”……………
Since the death of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat in 2004, Hamas’ political wing has entered and won many local elections in Gaza, Qalqilya, and Nablus. In January 2006, Hamas won a surprise victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections, taking 76 of the 132 seats in the chamber, while the ruling Fatah party took 43…. Hamas’ militant stance has found a receptive audience amongst Palestinians; many perceived the preceding Fatah government as corrupt and ineffective, and Hamas’ supporters see it as a legitimate resistance movement fighting what they see as Israeli occupation of legitimate Palestinian territories. Hamas has further gained popularity by establishing extensive welfare programs, funding schools, orphanages, and healthcare clinics, throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Since Hamas has taken control, the Palestinian territories have experienced a period of sharp internal conflicts, known as Fauda (anarchy), in which many Palestinians have been killed in internecine fighting. (from Wikipedia.org)
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