Monday, February 05, 2007

Shame silences Gaza's media

From The Australian, February 05, 2007, by Abraham Rabinovich...

JERUSALEM: Israeli reporters seeking to query Palestinian journalists in the Gaza Strip by telephone over the weekend on the near civil war between Hamas and Fatah have found it almost impossible to find colleagues willing to return calls. "They're ashamed of what's happening and don't want to talk about it," said an Israel Radio reporter who is normally in close contact with Palestinian journalists.

The slippery slope Palestinians have have been on since Hamas's election victory a year ago has grown more uncertain in recent weeks as the internecine fighting threatens to spin out of control. ... Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya issued an urgent appeal for both sides to respect the battered truce declared on Friday by his Islamist Hamas movement and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after clashes killed 25 people in just 24 hours.

...Even as gun battles continued, the duelling factions met again and renewed their commitment to the truce -- the second ceasefire to collapse in a week. ....Most of the 1.4million residents of the Gaza Strip have not ventured out of their houses in days as masked gunmen, whose affiliation they cannot readily discern, set up roadblocks at intersections and snipe from rooftops.

....Mahmoud Abed, a Gaza shoe store owner, told a Palestinian reporter.... "They (Hamas and Fatah) should be ashamed of themselves. I believed that Hamas was better than Fatah but I've discovered that they're both bad."

... "... this is a face-off between two conflicting ideologies -- one national-secular and the other religious fundamentalist," said Israeli general Moshe Elad, who had served extensively in the Palestinian territories. "This will only be resolved by a decisive confrontation in which one side will defeat the other."

Indications that such a confrontation may be in the offing emerged last month with reports that Mohammed Dahalan, a charismatic figure who had been head of Yasser Arafat's security forces in the Gaza Strip, had been asked by Mr Abbas to resume that role. He has not been formally appointed as security chief, at least not publicly, but a massive Fatah rally he organised last month highlighted his regained status. It also marked a possible turning point in the Gaza power struggle in which Hamas has, until now, had the upper hand.

...The Fatah rally, in which Mr Dahalan called Hamas "a bunch of murderers and thieves", was followed by the arrival of a convoy bringing a large shipment of rifles and ammunition from Egypt through Israeli territory to forces in the Gaza Strip loyal to Mr Abbas. Hamas spokesmen said the US and Israel were behind the shipment and were bolstering Fatah for a military confrontation in the Gaza Strip.

To the surprise of many, in last week's skirmishing Fatah-affiliated forces often beat Hamas, which showed uncharacteristic indiscipline at times, with fighters ignoring orders of their political leaders. In a major action on Thursday night, hundreds of Fatah fighters overran the Islamic University, a Hamas bastion in Gaza City.

....the current violence has apparently tarnished Hamas's image by depicting it to many Palestinians as just another faction interested in retaining power at any cost.

...a Hamas victory over Fatah is almost certain to end Israeli restraint in view of the extensive build-up by Hamas of advanced weapons since Israel's withdrawal from the strip. "If Gaza becomes 'Hamastan'," General Elad said, "it will without a doubt constitute a strategic threat to Israel."

Additional reporting: AFP

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