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December 17, 2006
The Real Civil War (Updated)

The Palestinians have slid closer to outright civil war after Mahmoud Abbas attempted to end the current Hamas-led government and call for new elections. Hamas responded by rejecting any participation in early elections, and Fatah responded by attempting to assassinate the Hamas foreign minister:

Gunmen attacked the convoy of the Palestinian foreign minister and raided a training base for an elite security forces unit Sunday, stepping up factional violence over a decision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to end nine months of Hamas leadership and call early elections.

A 19-year-old woman and a Palestinian security officer were killed in the chaos, while at least 13 people were wounded in gun battles across Gaza City. In one symbolic attack, Abbas' empty residence came under fire. Militants also fired two mortar shells at Abbas' nearby offices.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, in a first response to Abbas' decision, said the Islamic militant group would boycott a new vote and accused the moderate president of inflaming an already tense situation.

"We confirm that the Palestinian government refuses the invitation to early elections because it is unconstitutional and could cause tension among Palestinians," Haniyeh said. He said Abbas' speech calling for new elections was "insulting to the sacrifices and the pain of Palestinians everywhere."

The Palestinian Authority keeps coming closer to dissolving into two separate governments and two major bases of operation for each. Hamas already has primary control of Gaza, while Fatah holds the West Bank, although each has plenty of representation in both places. Both have their own armies, and both seek to gain full control over the state apparatus. The early elections will likely set off enough anger to end the facade of the PA altogether.

Perhaps this is the only way in which the Palestinians will get tired of war. It's unfortunate, because this could have been resolved a decade ago if Yasser Arafat had the courage to accept Ehud Barak's two-state solution. The Palestinians want it all from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, however, and they will instead reap the bitter harvest of all the violence they have sown. When they have had enough death, perhaps they will select leaders interested in peace. If that never happens, though, it seems more likely that they will exterminate themselves in an orgy of destruction.

UPDATE: Someone called the war off, at least for now:

Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah say they have reached a deal to end violence in the Gaza Strip.

Officials of Hamas, which runs the Palestinian government, said they had agreed a truce with Fatah, loyal to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Fatah officials also spoke of a deal, but there were reports of heavy gunfire continuing into Sunday night.

It seems like neither side feels they can win a civil war, or that they can maintain their political support if hostilities erupt to that level. At some point, that hesitation will disappear; they cannot maintain the discipline of their militias if they keep calling off the fight.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 17, 2006 10:55 AM

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