Photo: AFP
Infighting in Gaza
Photo: AFP
Hamas official: 'We'll stay in power'
Deadly clashes continue between Palestinian factions, but leading party refuses to relinquish power, calls Fatah behavior mutinous

Another attempt at calm in Gaza: Palestinian organizations and an Egyptian security delegation continued discussions Tuesday morning in efforts to contain violent infighting in the Strip. However, Fatah and Hamas representatives are sure that any calm will be temporary in nature.


The riots, which began in Gaza on Sunday and spread to the West Bank, started after Hamas intervention forces used live fire and grenades in order to disperse Palestinian policemen who were demonstrating to receive wages.


Nine Palestinians were killed in the exchange of fire and dozens were injured. Monday, two more Palestinians were killed and 17 were injured in Rafah.


Members of the Hamas movement promised that they will not let "mutiny and attempted revolution" succeed. A senior Hamas leader told Ynet that the movement, who won a majority in the January 2006 elections, will not relinquish control of the government.


"We will remain in power, a Hamas government or a unity government, at least for the next four years until the end of our term, even if this will bring about an escalation of the conflict and even if, to our chagrin, there will be many more fatalities," he said.


Opportunistic behavior causes infighting

This same official pointed an accusing finger at the United States as responsible for the recent infighting in Gaza: "This hasn't been about a workers' strike for a long time. This is an attempt of US pressure on a known group within the Fatah, and on (Palestinian President) Mahmoud Abbas to prevent a unity government containing Hamas."


"This group, under American and Israeli pressure, undermined a unity government following the elections, they think that if they incite in the streets, that we will surrender, but we are here and we will fight these corrupt people," he said.


According to the official, the Palestinians wanted a change and, therefore, voted for Hamas. "The nation wanted a change of a corrupt group and now, by preventing the transfer of funds, some of which Mahmoud Abbas is preventing himself, into the accounts of the government workers who are protesting, they are trying to topple us."


"Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh warned them not to play with us. He said that we are lions. I hope that, in the end, ethical and logical considerations and the prohibition against bloodshed will overcome any opportunistic considerations. If not, we'll deal with this group in any way necessary. The way of Islam and the followers of Islam has never been easy," he added.


Fatah: 'Allowed to check government'

Fatah, on the other hand, claims that Hamas treats the Haniyeh government as something holy. Movement spokesman Tawfik abu-Husa told Ynet that Fatah is not trying to topple the Hamas government.


"On the contrary, we're in favor of the legislative body to continue serving out its term; however, one of our roles is to check the government when it is clear that it has failed in its duties," he said.


"It is the right of the public to criticize and protest against the government. Ministers and regional representatives don't hesitate to call the government something holy, a government of Allah and, as such, above criticism," he explained.


Abu-Husa claims that changes of government within the Palestinian Authority have a precedent, and therefore, Hamas members are overreacting to normal and democratic protests. "We remind Hamas that this is the tenth PA government. Changes of government are routine."


"However, Hamas doesn't distinguish between the government as a political movement and between Parliament and react to every criticism as political criticism against the movement. We are criticizing the action and quality of action of the government, and not Hamas," he continued.


Regaining calm

Regarding attempts to regain calm, abu-Husa said that the ball is in Hamas' court. "At the end of the day, I hope that the moderate and rational group within Hamas will strengthen, and calm things down."


"After everyone calms down, there may be a chance to create a unity government with other organizations, based on a clear plan that can lead the Palestinian people to a new horizon, both internally and externally," he said.


"It's true that, within Hamas, there are many factions, some of whom act for foreign interests, but we are treating the movement as a whole, which has a place and a function within Palestinian society. We hope that the rational factions will triumph within the movement in the end, in order to calm things down and solve the current crisis," he emphasized.


Abbas: Interior Minister may stand trial

Concurrently, President Abbas said in a TV interview that Hamas member and Interior Minister Said Siam may stand trial if he is proven to be linked to events that claimed the lives of 11 Palestinians.


In an interview with the al-Arabia station, Abbas said that the mechanism set up by Siam needs to be removed from the Palestinian Authority. In the interview, Abbas emphasized his executive status: "There is no other executive source in the PA (other than myself) and the government must act according to presidential policy and help implement his policy."


The Palestinian Authority is worried primarily that the fighting, which has already reached Nablus and Jericho, will escalate to other areas of Gaza and the West Bank.


In Bethlehem and Jenin, Fatah members blockaded government offices and in Nablus and Jericho, shots were fired at the car of Deputy Prime Minister Nasser al-Shaer, who only last week was released from prison in Israel. Fatah members refer to the clashes as 'Black Sunday'.


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