Militant Hamas as reluctant moderator
Can Gaza's ruling militants keep other armed groups from spoiling a six-month cease-fire with Israel intended to improve life in the impoverished coastal strip?
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"There are some groups who are not interested now in keeping the situation quiet. But this calm is in the interest of the Palestinian people and in the national consensus," says Mr. Hamad in an interview from Gaza.Skip to next paragraph
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Islamic Jihad takes a strictly militant line on the conflict and does not believe in participating in any of the political processes that have grown out of negotiations with Israel – including running candidates for office in the Palestinian Authority (PA), since its very creation was a product of the Oslo Accords.
The organization maintains its independence from Hamas, but has also expressed a willingness to cooperate with it in the truce and in other matters. The group's spokesman says that its rocket launches this week were in response to the Israeli army's assassination of an Islamic Jihad leader in Nablus, in the West Bank. The cease-fire deal did not include the West Bank.
"We will not be the obstacle: What happened was an exceptional message because of the assassination," says Daoud Shihab, a spokesman for the Islamic Jihad in Gaza. "But we believe the Israelis will never respect this agreement anyway. Part of the deal is opening the crossings, and they haven't done so."
He said that Islamic Jihad sees the cease-fire as a chance for a "breather," and for people to gird themselves for the next confrontations.
"We are not optimistic that the cease-fire will last a long time," Mr. Shihab added. "We want people to start breathing again. We know that the battle with Israel has not finished. We want people to be able to get ready, to buy food, to prepare for the bigger battle that will surely be with the Israelis later on."
Historically, it was usually Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, that favored resistance over reconciliation and often chose key moments of agreement between Israel and Fatah to launch attacks. Once an underground organization at loggerheads with the PA, founded and run by the secular Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Hamas today is the authority in Gaza and not exactly relishing the job of reining in other militants.
"I'm against firing now, especially after signing the [deal with Israel along] with all the Palestinians factions. Some people are trying to keep the collective punishment and the bad situation as it is," says Hamas official Hamad, referring to Israel's severe restrictions on fuel and goods going into Gaza.
"There was an agreement of all the Palestinian factions to keep the truce in Gaza," he adds. "We don't accept that they come and say this is a reaction for the Israeli crimes in the West Bank. We have to act together, not on the wishes of each individual faction. This only create more troubles for us, and we must deal seriously with the violations of the agreement."