The Palestinian Authority is in the midst of a civil war, and as in any civil war it is yielding fatalities, injuries, verbal violence and a lot of hatred. There are also attempts to assassinate leadership figures.
The last person to escape an assassination attempt
was Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas set up an explosives ambush that was set to explode while he was passing through the Erez checkpoint on his way to his office in Gaza.
Following the events of recent days, the term civil war can no longer be avoided; this is also a term being used by Palestinians in the media, on the street and at home. The civil war's seeds were sown at midnight on January 25th, a year and three days ago to date, after it became apparent that Hamas had won the elections by a vast majority - elections that were forced on Abbas by the US and the West.
Since then riots and street battles were quelled, yet it was clear to all that an all-out conflict was just a matter of time. It is also no secret that there is no lack of arms in Gaza. This is not a political struggle between Hamas and Fatah over the reigns of power.
It is a struggle over Palestinian identity – between Fatah striving for a national secular identity, and Hamas seeking to establish an Islamic Palestinian identity. This is a war between the values of the West and Islam. It follows, therefore, that the fate of the Hamas government will not be determined in Gaza or Ramallah, but rather in Tehran and Washington.
Why did the street battles erupt on this particular weekend? The immediate catalyst was an explosive device that killed a Hamas member and escalated the battles. However, the true cause may lie in the talks held last Sunday in Damascus between Abbas and Khaled Mashaal aimed at securing an agreement for a unity government. As expected, the talks failed. The renewal of street battles since then was just a matter of time.
Who has scored more points? At this stage Fatah is in a better situation. The majority of fatalities and injuries incurred over the weekend came from the Hamas camp. Yet this was just another battle in an ongoing war. Hamas announced Saturday that the organization would aim its fire at anyone trying to harm its members. As of yet, no one is discussing a ceasefire. On the contrary. The leadership from both camps is waging war: The statements they are making are far more radical than those being made by the public.
Gaza is in flames, but Abbas is touring the globe. He was in Davos and Spain, and he will be visiting Morocco this week to participate in the African Union summit in Addis Ababa. He is only expected to return to Ramallah at the end of the month. He would like to return to Gaza when Hamas is defeated, but Hamas is showing no signs of breaking.
The Palestinians are overcoming poverty and unemployment in Gaza by means of a new form of employment and livelihood: The armed militias. That's where the money is, and that's where salaries are being paid.