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March 21, 2018 11:58 am

After Assassination Attempt, Hamas-Fatah Feud Simmers

avatar by Fiamma Nirenstein / JNS.org

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Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrives at the inauguration ceremony of a waste treatment plant after an explosion targeted his convoy, in the northern Gaza Strip March 13, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Mohammed Salem.

JNS.org – Who tried to kill the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Gaza?

“If it were us,” declared Mahmoud al-Zahar in his usual blunt manner, “we would have returned his fragmented body to the Mukata.”

This is how al-Zahar — a co-founder of Hamas and a senior member of its leadership in the Gaza Strip — denied the PA’s accusations that they were responsible for the attack, which occurred just inside Gaza.

Gaza, of course, is the Islamic Republic led by Yahya Sinwar (the current leader of Hamas after Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashal). During the assassination attempt, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, was traveling with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ intelligence chief, Majid Faraj. These two men are both central figures within Abbas’ unstable regime.

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A bomb exploded shortly after Hamdallah’s convoy entered into Gaza through the Erez border crossing, leaving him unhurt. The bomb hit the last three jeeps of the convoy, whose windows were blown out. Al Jazeera aired a video showing a large explosive impact, which demonstrates that the bombers put a lot of thought and effort into the operation. However, seven security men were slightly wounded, whom Israel immediately offered to treat.

The 56-year-old Hamdallah, who visited Gaza to inaugurate a highly anticipated new sewage plant in the area, went on to deliver his speech quietly and elegantly — extolling the unity recently acquired by the two parties, Fatah and Hamas.

The two groups, despite various ups and downs, have been at war with each other since 2007. Blood and enmity are very usual among Fatah and Hamas, even if Hamdallah, as usual, tried to promote the concept of unity after the attack. Why? Because it helps the illusions about a Palestinian state, and the flow of money towards Gaza and the West Bank.

Hamas recently lost some of the money it receives from Qatar, and has turbulent relations with Egypt –because Cairo is at odds with the Muslim Brotherhood. (Hamas is part of, and was founded by, the Brotherhood). And it is not a secret that Hamas hopes to seize control of all the Palestinian territories following the passing or resignation of Abbas.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Dahlan, expelled from Fatah and welcomed by Hamas — and Jibril Rajoub, a man devoted to the struggle against Israelis — have been vying for control of the PA. If the attack wasn’t carried out by Hamas, other possibilities remain: ISIS, which has its Salafist groups active in the area; and perhaps, but this must be said with caution, Mohammed Dahlan — whom Abbas not only hates, but has also banned from Ramallah.

But who knows? Since the 2007 civil war, Fatah and Hamas members have shot, imprisoned, tortured and sentenced each other to death every day. Once again, we are — despite whoever planted the bomb — at another of the umpteenth episodes of this journey.

The PA refuses any dialogue with Israel, seeking instead an ideological identity with Hamas, but it looks like this doesn’t particularly benefit them in any way. The Palestinians have been cornered since Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the PA is trying to maintain a position of anger. But Abbas doesn’t stand a chance in the arena of extremist competition and looses ground as the “reformer” he likes to appear to be, especially in front of his European allies.

Instead, Abbas should finally open that letter from Trump, who has invited him to resume peace talks, and see what’s inside.

Journalist Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies, served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including “Israel Is Us” (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Partial translation by Amy Rosenthal.

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