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July 16, 2005
Abbas No Match For Hamas In Gaza

As could have been predicted by almost anyone watching events in the Palestinian territories, Hamas proved itself the stronger faction in an internecine confrontation yesterday that wound up drawing an Israeli response. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, under pressure to curb violence and disarm terrorists, finally authorized his security group to use force against Hamas in Gaza to keep them from firing rockets at Israelis. The patronage-riddled Fatah police fared badly against the more popular Hamas terrorists:

Palestinian police and Hamas gunmen fought running battles, killing at least two civilian bystanders, after Mr Abbas sought to exert his authority on the militants who threaten to wreck the planned Israeli withdrawal from settlements in Gaza next month. ...

The crisis in Gaza began late on Thursday when Hamas attacked Jewish targets. A volley of four rockets was launched towards the village of Netiv Ha'asara, which lies just inside Israel, killing a 22-year-old woman.

The Israeli air force launched the first retaliatory strikes within hours but the violence worsened when forces loyal to Mr Abbas tried to disarm the militants.

Police attempted to stop a car carrying six Hamas operatives as they were preparing a fresh rocket attack. The police are believed to have opened fire, injuring the six men, prompting an immediate and overwhelming response from other Hamas gunmen.

Hundreds of civilians came out to watch the clashes, in which Hamas used mortars, and two young men were killed when they were hit in the crossfire.

Hamas defiantly continued firing salvoes of rockets at Jewish property yesterday, prompting the Israeli air force to respond with a series of retaliatory strikes by helicopter gun-ships.

In one strike on Gaza City, a van carrying a group of Hamas militants and a cache of homemade rockets was destroyed. The explosion scattered debris for hundreds of yards.

Israel has already agreed to pull out of Gaza, but has repeatedly warned Abbas that they will not leave "under fire". If Abbas cannot make the attacks stop, the Israelis will not leave. They will also ensure, as they did yesterday, that someone effectively stops the attacks, and if Abbas can't do it, then the IDF will.

Abbas has proven over and over again that he has failed in the role for which the West has cast him as the Palestinian peace partner. He came to power during a Hamas boycott that severely depressed voter participation throughout the Palestinian territories; the only way that Fatah could get the turnout above 30% was to extend the polling hours and eliminate most of the identification processes. That allowed Fatah activists to vote several times, pushing the supposed turnout to a respectable level.

Since then, each election has shown Hamas and its nihilistic program of terrorism and all-out war with Israel as most popular with the Palestinians. The so-called moderates of Fatah have little mandate, therefore, for peace. Their security forces consist mainly of former terrorists and no-shows, patronage positions instead of professional law enforcement personnel. It all amounts to gang warfare in the territories, and up to now, it looks like Hamas has the more powerful and most popular gang.

This isn't a road map to peace or a plan to build a state. What we have is a clear path to a civil war that may already be in progress. Israel's pullout will remove the one common enemy in Gaza that has kept the gangs from attacking each other before now, and what the IDF leaves behind will quickly turn to rubble. Unfortunately, it might take that kind of civil war to convince the Palestinian people that terrorism doesn't do anything but bring destruction and chaos on those who use it.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 16, 2005 9:10 AM

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