The Palestinian Authority (PA) declared a state of emergency in its
security forces today after hostilities broke out Friday in Gaza between
the PA and its Islamist counterparts in the Hamas and Jihad movements.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas did not make any attempt to address
his community, preferring to maintain a low profile during the crisis, but
his official Palestinian broadcast media publicly blamed Hamas for
introducing a period of "fitna" [ "civil strife" in Arabic ].
"We will take whatever steps are necessary to stop the use of weapons,"
declared PA Interior Minister Nasser Youssef in a somewhat hasty and short
press conference shown on Palestinian television. General Youssef appeared
for less than 20 seconds on the screen and in front of microphones before
rushing away with his bodyguards.
Voice of Palestine radio said 25 had been wounded, including nine
members of PA police and security force members in attacks on at least three
police stations, and PA television reported that two police cars were burned
by Hamas gunmen. But the general small-scale internal Palestinian fighting
was important because of its political significance.
It was the first time since 1998 that there was open combat fighting and
public exchange of accusations Hamas and the PA, which is built around the
Fatah movement of Yasser Arafat and his successor, Dr. Abbas.
"Quiet has returned to Gaza City following several attacks this morning
by armed groups of the Hamas movement on elements of National Defense,"
declared Voice of Palestine radio during its 12-noon (5AM-New York) news
The internal Palestinian fighting took place during the same week that
Jihad, Hamas and Fatah carried out, respectively, human bomb attacks, rocket
assault and mortar strikes on a wide range of targets inside Israel and its
Jewish communities in Gaza and the West Bank, murdering at least six
Israelis and wounding more than 40.
Palestinian President Abbas weakly condemned one of the attacks-on an
Israeli mall in Netanya-as a crime against Palestinian interests, but he and
his media ignored all the other attacks and refused to condemn Hamas or
Jihad by name, preferring to pretend that they were both still observing a
ceasefire regarding Israeli targets.
In fact, the Abbas-controlled media referred to Israeli "aggression"
and "terrorism" in responding to the attacks, but Abbas's open courting of
Hamas and Jihad does not seem to have worked, and hehas never established
his authority even among his own Fatah members, especially the suicide
bombers of the "Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade."
Abbas's personal spokesman, Nabil Abu-Rudeineh, who also served as
Arafat's spokesman, appeared on PA television charging that Israel was to
blame for the recent internal Palestinian violence, and he stressed that
Abbas was meeting with Hamas and Jihad to restore internal Palestinian
Less than a week ago, Abbas in a speech in the Rashidiyeh Refugee Camp
in Lebanon-whose remarks were repeatedly broadcast on PA television and
radio-had insisted that he had no differences with Hamas or Jihad.
Abbas, who returned to the Gaza Strip several days ago, has been working
short office hours on those few occasions that he has been in Gaza or the
West Bank. However, he has been seen by an increasing number of
Palestinians and Israelis as a kind of absentee landlord who prefers making
diplomatic tours of Washington, London, Damascus and Cairo rather than
putting his own house in order.
© 2005 Michael Widlanski Associates