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May 27, 2006
They're Baaa-aaack!

A day after pulling their armed forces off the streets of Gaza while attempting to negotiate with Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas sent their militia back again, raising the prospects for a bloody fight with Fatah for control of the Palestinian territories. They intend to take fixed positions in the streets and begin "patrols" immediately:

The Hamas-led government sent its private militia back into the streets of Gaza on Saturday, a day after withdrawing the force to help calm an increasingly bloody standoff with forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas officials said the move wasn't meant as a provocation. But Abbas' Fatah movement said the deployment raised the chances of new fighting. Fatah officials also said the move threatened negotiations on the president's ultimatum to the militants to accept a plan that would implicitly recognize

The 3,000-strong Hamas militia has been at the center of the Palestinian infighting, and Hamas' decision to withdraw the black-clad force on Friday was widely seen as a conciliatory gesture.

The report from the London Times makes the original withdrawal sound more like a momentary retreat. It appears that Abbas' insistence on either their recognition of Israel or a referendum on that point caught them "wrong-footed", as the British say. They may have pulled back to regroup and see if the Palestinian people reacted to the news. Apparently, little enough changed for them to put the forces back onto the streets, regardless of negotiations.

I doubt that Abbas will get the opportunity to hold that referendum. With Hamas in the streets, the chances appear slim for direct democracy to take place.

UPDATE: The reappearance probably has some connection to this defiant stand by Hamas:

Hamas on Saturday rejected a deadline set by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to accept a plan that indirectly calls for recognition of Israel, which he has threatened to put to a referendum.

Abbas had stunned the Islamist militant group, which won an election in January, by giving it 10 days to accept the plan, and talks had been expected to begin on Saturday.

However, Sami Abu-Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said they would be delayed, adding:

"There is no need for the 10-day idea. As long as we are talking about dialogue, there shouldn't be any dates set."

Hamas will play the string out as along as possible, keeping Abbas on a diplomatic hook of his own making while pretending to be reasonable. That reasonableness will end as soon as Hamas feels the time is ripe to take power from Abbas by force.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 27, 2006 9:50 AM

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