Fatah, Hamas split widens amid Gaza war
Members of the secular Fatah movement, which controls the Palestinian Authority, are divided over how the group should respond to the ongoing Israeli offensive against Hamas.
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President Abbas has been a vocal opponent of the offensive, calling for an immediate cease-fire, and has taken part in intensifying talks going on in Egypt.Skip to next paragraph
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On Wednesday, the Israeli newspaper Haartz reported that Hamas appeared willing to agree to the Egyptian brokered cease-fire deal as United Nations chief Ban Ki Moon arrived in Cairo. "It is intolerable that civilians bear the brunt of this conflict," he said.
On the war front, Israel continued to press into Gaza, hitting some 60 targets. Militants in Lebanon fired rockets into northern Israel for a second time, but no injuries were reported. Israel responded by firing artillery shells into South Lebanon.
Fatah, which reached a peace deal with Israel in 1993, is perched to play an important role in Gaza. A proposal being discussed in Egypt calls for a temporary cease-fire, followed by a longer-term truce and the opening of Gaza's border crossings with the presence of PA security forces loyal to Abbas.
But Awwad says the road that will lead Fatah back to Gaza is through a true national reconciliation with Hamas. That road cannot be paved with the tracks of Israeli tanks, he says, echoing the outlook of many Palestinians here.
"We're counting on the political results of the war, not the military outcome," he adds. "Fatah is ready to go back to Gaza in agreement with Hamas, not in agreement with Israel."
Akram Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Authority's Preventive Security force here, concurs. All the speculation about whether Israel's final stages of the war include plans to overthrow Hamas, which still rejects any kind of reconciliation with Israel, short of a temporary cease-fire, is deeply wrongheaded, he says.
"Fatah is not planning to take over or to control Gaza again. If there are some elements inside Fatah who think along these lines, they are dreaming," he says.
"Those who think otherwise are not being realistic. Going back to Gaza should be coordinated between the [PA] and Hamas," Mr. Rajoub says. The reality, he says, is that Hamas cannot be destroyed. "Hamas may have been harmed significantly and suffered heavy losses militarily, but on the street, they will remain strong."
Besides preventing the conflict from engulfing the West Bank, which has been experiencing a relative upswing in stability in the past year, Rajoub acknowledges a blunt truth: He doesn't want to give Hamas a chance to start calling the shots.
"Our approach is fully understood by the Palestinian public," he says. "If we had taken a laissez faire attitude, people would be getting killed in the West Bank every day. What's going on in Gaza is enough."