In Gaza, rise of Hamas military wing complicates reconciliation with Fatah

The rising clout of Al Qassam in Gaza dims prospects for mending the Hamas-Fatah rift. Reconciliation talks are slated to start Nov. 9.

By , / correspondent

  • close
    Members of Al-Qassam brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, attend a news conference in Gaza City on Sept. 30, 2009.

    View Caption

Abu Khaled has been a member of Hamas's military wing for 11 years and he looks the part. His thick beard, black clothes, and serious face bear witness to his rise through the ranks to become one of the leaders of the Ezzedine Al Qassam Brigades in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, near Israel's border.

But at this moment, as he softly sings along with popular Arabic pop singer Elissa in a deserted Gaza restaurant, it's hard to believe he fought in the fierce 2007 battle that expelled Fatah, Hamas's secular rival, from Gaza.

When asked about reconciliation with Fatah, however, he snaps back into the role of tough militant leader.

Recommended: Who is Hamas? 5 questions about the Palestinian militant group.

"There is no reconciliation," he says sharply. "How can I reconcile with someone who killed my brother?"

Most Gazans are not optimistic that Hamas – considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel – will end the divide with Fatah, which dominates the internationally backed Palestinian Authority (PA) in charge of the West Bank.

But they want such reconciliation, because it would not only improve their standard of living and pave the way for overdue elections, but also enable Palestinians to present a united front in negotiations with Israel on a future Palestinian state.

Al Qassam members don't see reconciliation as an option

But reconciliation is not an option for Al Qassam members, who make up a large part of Hamas security forces. Their bitterness toward Fatah still runs deep over the 2007 battle, and their victory brought a sense of ownership for Hamas power in Gaza that they will not easily give up.

"Al Qassam led the battle against Fatah and gave the victory to Hamas," says Abu Khaled. "The Hamas government was weak until Al Qassam took the power and handed it to Hamas. Without us, there wouldn't be a Hamas government."

That is part of the reason that Hamas is not likely to sign, much less implement, the Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation agreement that would restructure the security apparatus, giving Fatah a hand in Gaza security.

"[Al Qassam fighters] are the ones who kicked Fatah out of the Gaza Strip; they are the ones being hunted and tortured in the West Bank," says Mkhaimar Abusada, a political science professor at Al Azhar University in Gaza. "Qassam is against reconciliation and they will stand against [it] even if it means a big split within Hamas."

The Egyptian document also calls for dissolving militias – understood to include Al Qassam – and incorporating them into the security apparatus. Dissolving the force that is considered the resistance against the Israeli occupation is out of the question for most Palestinians, not to mention for Al Qassam itself.

Qassam seen as more powerful than Gaza's Hamas government

Al Qassam militants, whose role in fighting Israel during the 2009 Gaza war added to the clout they'd gained two years earlier, are perceived as being more powerful than the Hamas-run government.

Hamas security forces are largely drawn from Al Qassam members – Abu Khaled says two-thirds of Hamas policemen are police by day and Al Qassam by night. Many Hamas government leaders are former or current Al Qassam members, or have sons in the armed brigades.

Many in Gaza tell stories of jailed Al Qassam militants who are sprung overnight by their comrades, with the police unable or unwilling to intervene. Some accuse members of the brigades of burning down Crazy Water, a restaurant and water park accused of having looser social strictures.

"All the government, especially the security apparatuses, are derived from Al Qassam," says Abu Mohamed, the leader of the cell in the Jabaliya refugee camp. "They belong to Al Qassam."

That sense of ownership is firm. If reconciliation were to happen, says Abu Mohamed as he idly pulls his pistol from his waistband and sets it on the floor, "Fatah must be under [Hamas] control in Gaza. We must control Gaza."

Talks conducted by Hamas political leaders

The reconciliation talks are conducted by the Syria-based political leadership of the Hamas movement, however, not the Gaza government. Al Qassam leaders stress that they have sworn allegiance to the leadership and will obey its orders. They are confident, however, that those orders will not include reconciliation.

Ahmed Yousef, deputy foreign minister in the Hamas government, dismisses such talk with a wave of his hand. "They respect their political leaders and they abide by the regulations, and they are restricted to what the political leaders are telling them," he says. "Those guys are smelling guns and bullets all the time. Don't count on what they say. The people who will decide are the politicians."

Dr. Yousef says the time is ripe for reconciliation, and the two sides will find a way to agree on restructuring the security apparatus. But distrust runs deep.

Early in October, Al Qassam leaders in Gaza held a press conference to denounce the PA's arrest of militants in the West Bank and threatened to retaliate against Fatah members in Gaza. "How could Palestinian reconciliation succeed if we still hear this language of threatening and incitement?" asks Mr. Abusada.

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

eZ debug

Clear cache:

Quick settings:

Timing: Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
Script start
Timing: Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
Module start 'content'
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
Undefined index: path in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezwebin/autoloads/ezpagedata.php on line 158
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
Undefined index: path in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezwebin/autoloads/ezpagedata.php on line 175
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
Undefined index: path in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezwebin/autoloads/ezpagedata.php on line 158
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
Undefined index: path in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezwebin/autoloads/ezpagedata.php on line 175
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
Undefined index: meta_remote_id_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/csm_base/classes/CSMFunctionCollection.php on line 1028
Timing: Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
Module end 'content'
Timing: Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
Before parse_includes
Strict: PHP: E_STRICT Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
Non-static method MugoViewExtras::get_view_extras() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/mugo_view_extras/autoloads/template_operators.php on line 37
Warning: eZTemplate:def @ extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/extra/archive.tpl:21[1] Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
Variable 'view_extra_node' is already defined.
Timing: Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
After parse_includes
Timing: Jul 09 2014 10:21:12
End

Timing points:

CheckpointElapsedRel. ElapsedMemoryRel. Memory
Script start 0.0000 sec0.0236 sec 1,286.2578 KB1,162.2656 KB
Module start 'content' 0.0236 sec1.8733 sec 2,448.5234 KB12,633.7656 KB
Module end 'content' 1.8968 sec0.0162 sec 15,082.2891 KB403.8672 KB
Before parse_includes 1.9131 sec0.0503 sec 15,486.1563 KB271.7188 KB
After parse_includes 1.9634 sec0.0007 sec 15,757.8750 KB-186.1875 KB
End 1.9641 sec  15,571.6875 KB 
Total runtime:1.9708 sec
Peak memory usage:21,365.3125 KB

Time accumulators:

 Accumulator Elapsed Percent Count Average
ini_load
Load cache0.0078 sec0.3939%370.0002 sec
Mysql Total
Mysqli_queries0.1927 sec9.7635%2370.0008 sec
Looping result0.0535 sec2.7104%2290.0002 sec
Template Total1.9023 sec 96.4% 8 0.2378 sec
Template load0.0077 sec0.3905%80.0010 sec
Template processing1.8941 sec95.9811%80.2368 sec
Template load and register function0.0003 sec0.0133%40.0001 sec
states
state_id_array0.0103 sec0.5204%180.0006 sec
state_identifier_array0.0163 sec0.8273%240.0007 sec
override
Cache load0.0074 sec0.3740%1040.0001 sec
eZ Find
Search0.0825 sec4.1828%10.0825 sec
Query build0.0755 sec3.8268%10.0755 sec
Class attribute list0.0705 sec3.5737%10.0705 sec
Engine time0.0051 sec0.2608%10.0051 sec
MoreLikeThis0.0000 sec0.0000%00.0000 sec
Sytem overhead
Fetch class attribute can translate value0.0041 sec0.2068%60.0007 sec
Fetch class attribute name0.0003 sec0.0128%120.0000 sec
XML
Image XML parsing0.0076 sec0.3831%60.0013 sec
class_abstraction
Instantiating content class attribute0.0001 sec0.0072%150.0000 sec
General
String conversion0.0000 sec0.0011%30.0000 sec
dbfile0.0019 sec0.0974%700.0000 sec
View Extra building0.0105 sec0.5340%40.0026 sec
Total script time:1.9734 sec

CSS/JS files loaded with "ezjscPacker" during request:

CacheTypePacklevelSourceFiles
01a980f93dc967c6e39d52a11ae2108b_1404899611_all.cssCSS3extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/stylesheets/normalize.css
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/stylesheets/html5b.css
design/standard/stylesheets/debug.css
extension/ezwt/design/standard/stylesheets/websitetoolbar.css
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/stylesheets/jquery-ui-1.10.3.custom.min.css
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/stylesheets/desktop.css
ede0a88fd146f1a095d27fb22227d0e5_1398846822.jsJS2extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/modernizr.js
extension/csm_base/design/standard/javascript/jquery-1.10.2.min.js
1650da1ba852ac5f9af81af07e8fa105_1404899611.jsJS2extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/jquery-ui-1.10.4.min.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/json2.js
extension/csm_base/design/standard/javascript/jquery.cookie.min.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/jquery.mobile.custom.min.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.arthole.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.sticky.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.csmstory.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.right_column.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.csmstory_editorspickdialog.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.sailthru_signup.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.jcarousel.min.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.history.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.mainNav.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.gallery.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.staffdialog.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/jQuery.rollChildren.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/pubService_extended.js
extension/csm_base/design/standard/javascript/csm/csmNew.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/jquery.quiz.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/jquery.spectrumQuiz.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/global.js

Templates used to render the page:

UsageRequested templateTemplateTemplate loadedEditOverride
1node/view/full.tplfull/article.tplextension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/full/article.tplEdit templateOverride template
22content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/paragraph.tpl<No override>extension/ezwebin/design/ezwebin/templates/content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/paragraph.tplEdit templateOverride template
3content/datatype/view/ezimage.tpl<No override>extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/templates/content/datatype/view/ezimage.tplEdit templateOverride template
2content/datatype/view/ezstring.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/content/datatype/view/ezstring.tplEdit templateOverride template
18content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/link.tpl<No override>extension/csm_base/design/standard/templates/content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/link.tplEdit templateOverride template
6content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/header.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/header.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezxmltext.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/content/datatype/view/ezxmltext.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezbyline.tpl<No override>extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/templates/content/datatype/view/ezbyline.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezobjectrelationlist.tplcontent/datatype/view/story_images.tplextension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/content/datatype/view/story_images.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/eztext.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/content/datatype/view/eztext.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezstring.tplcontent/datatype/view/image_credit.tplextension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/content/datatype/view/image_credit.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezxmltext.tplcontent/datatype/view/story_info_box.tplextension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/content/datatype/view/story_info_box.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezmatrix.tplcontent/datatype/view/ezmatrix_article_related_external_links.tplextension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/content/datatype/view/ezmatrix_article_related_external_links.tplEdit templateOverride template
1pagelayout.tpl<No override>extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/templates/pagelayout.tplEdit templateOverride template
1modules/mugo_view_extras/extra_cached.tpl<No override>extension/mugo_view_extras/design/standard/templates/modules/mugo_view_extras/extra_cached.tplEdit templateOverride template
1setup/debug_toolbar.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/setup/debug_toolbar.tplEdit templateOverride template
 Number of times templates used: 62
 Number of unique templates used: 16
 Time used to render template usage: 0.0004 secs