The New York Times reports that the Palestinian Civil War may have already begun, less than a month after the withdrawal of the Israelis, as a series of gun battles tore through Gaza City after the ruling Fatah government attempted to disarm Hamas terrorists. The results from the first confrontation attempted by the Palestinian Authority against its internal nemesis left one police officer dead and dozens of people wounded, overflowing the local hospital:
Palestinian police officers and Hamas gunmen waged running gun battles on Sunday night in Gaza City. The shooting began when the police tried to confiscate illegal weapons.
At least two Palestinians were killed, including one policeman, and about 40 people were wounded in the fighting, the worst internal Palestinian violence since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip last month.
Last week, the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, began enforcing a prohibition against militants carrying weapons in public in Gaza.
But when police officers stopped a car carrying Hamas members on Sunday evening, shooting erupted and spread through two neighborhoods in Gaza City that are known as Hamas strongholds, witnesses and the Palestinian security forces said.
Again, we see that the PA has done little to improve its security approach. The “road map” required Mahmoud Abbas to streamline security so that all armed forces operated under his command, and that all militias get disarmed. Until now, Abbas has refused to implement this policy, which led to numerous “rogue’ attacks on Israel.
Now, with the Israeli presence removed from Gaza, the PA had no further excuse to allow Hamas and Islamic Jihad to remain armed. Hamas refused to disarm, and in a further provocation, held a demonstration while brandishing live arms in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal. Their incompetence in handling the weapons resulted in an explosion which killed and wounded dozens attending the rally. Unable to admit their own culpability in that incident, Hamas blamed Israel instead and shot a few Kassams over the border from Gaza — which resulted in a long and deadly response from their former occupiers.
That left Abbas with no other options. Either he needs to control Hamas or cede Gaza to the people with the weapons. Hamas will refuse to accept Fatah control — and civil war will result. It looks like it has already begun, and unfortunately, neither side shows much promise as partners for a two-state peace plan.