First Published: 2006-05-23

 
Gaza chaos spirals out of control
 

Palestinians fear prospect of realising their dream of independence is growing ever more distant.

 

Middle East Online

By Charles Levinson - GAZA CITY

Escalating power struggle between rival factions

As violence in Gaza spirals out of control amid an escalating power struggle between rival factions, Palestinians fear the prospect of realising their dream of independence is growing ever more distant.

When Israel withdrew from Gaza last September, the seaside strip with its 1.3 million residents became a 27-mile-long (16-mile) test tube for Palestinian self-rule.

Gaza, observers said at the time, would be a portent of what a future Palestinian state might look like.

But in the intervening eight months, an already fragile security situation has degenerated into a deadly power struggle between the newly-elected Hamas government and the vanquished Fatah factions that many feel could end up in civil war.

Foreigners have been kidnapped and unsubstantiated rumours abound of an Al-Qaeda-inspired presence lurking in Gaza. The European Union and United Nations have had to withdraw their foreign staff on multiple occasions in recent months.

Even before a dramatic firefight by the parliament building in Gaza City on Monday, which left one dead and nine wounded, the Hamas government's refusal to renounce violence or recognise Israel's right to exist had alienated many in the international community and triggered economic sanctions.

Under the terms of an internationally-backed peace plan known as the roadmap, the Palestinians were initially meant to have achieved statehood last year.

With that deadline now having come and gone, there is a growing sense of despondency that independence is slipping out of their grasp.

"Because of the new leadership, international public opinion is now perceiving the Palestinian case as part of the extremist Islamic movements in the world, which is reducing support and sympathy for our cause," said Ghassan Khatib, a former cabinet minister.

"Our delegation at the UN is telling us that we're having difficulty getting the same level of support that we used to have before."

Ahmed Hellis, a spokesman for Fatah, also pinned the blame on Hamas for "hurting our efforts to end the occupation and establish the state of Palestine".

Hamas might be able to shrug off such comments as sour grapes on behalf of its opponents but the public appears equally pessimistic.

Some even say that the price of independence is not worth paying if the past few months are any kind of barometer.

"It's clear that Hamas and Fatah both only care about themselves and having power," said Yunis Abu Sultan, a waiter in Gaza City. "Forget an independent state, we'd be better off if Jordan or Egypt ruled us again."

For its part, Hamas rejects accusations that it is responsible for delaying Palestinian statehood and says the blame lies with Israel.

"There is still hope for a Palestinian state, but the problem remains first and foremost the Israeli occupation and its practices, and their efforts to create chaos," said Yasser Mansur, vice president of the Hamas bloc of lawmakers in parliament.

But with Hamas refusing to recognise the Jewish state's right to exist, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert can forge ahead with his plan to unilaterally rewrite the map of the Middle East with borders that the Palestinians say cannot be viable.

The West may not be willing to endorse such a strategy but they will also not be prepared to deal with Hamas until it changes its platform.

The moderate Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas still insists that the roadmap's target of two states living side-by-side in peace and security can be reached.

But analysts believe that US President George W. Bush, who was meeting Olmert on Tuesday, will lose enthusiasm for such a vision and give up on Abbas if he can not stop the situation from unravelling.

"Why would somebody give something to Mahmud Abbas if he can't deliver in return?" asked Jon Alterman, an analyst with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies and former member of the policy planning staff at the US State Department.

 

17 killed in fatal Cairo building collapse

Syrian air strikes on Raqa kill 63 civilians

Essebsi leads Tunisia presidential vote

Death toll rises from Morocco flash floods

Lebanon's Jumblatt tweets his life besides politics

Egypt nabs five Salafist leaders

Paris pushing for 'safe zones' in war-torn Syria

New air strike hits Tripoli’s sole operational airport

Pentagon chief steps down

Saudi seeks to ‘knock out’ shale oil competitors from oil market

Yemen troops free 8 hostages from Al-Qaeda

Italy hails Egypt as 'strategic partner'

US Congress skeptical of Iran nuclear talks extension

Khartoum, Darfur rebels open ceasefire talks

Time runs out for biggest chance to resolve Iran nuclear standoff

Egypt leader heads to Italy

Morocco arrests six over online IS allegiance pledge

Iraqi forces retake areas near Iran border from jihadists

Southern Morocco storms claim eight lives

Marzouki, Essebsi set for runoff in Tunisia presidential vote

Biden wraps up Turkey visit without breakthrough on Syria

Sudan launches investigation into claims of 'mass rape' in Darfur village

Assad urges ‘real pressure’ on backers of 'terror'

Israel eyes powers to revoke rights of Arab residents

Iraq death sentence to ex- PM threatens to damage ties with powerful tribe

Iran hardliners resist possible nuclear deal in rare protest

After failure of boycott, Bahrain Shiite opposition resorts to accusations

Tunisia votes for president in first free and multi-candidate election

Hope for change and stability as Tunisia prepares to elect new president

Saudi detainee sent home as US speeds up Guantanamo repatriations

Economy and security top agenda of Sisi’s first European tour

Benghazi attack report clears Obama administration of serious charges

Voters bet on stability in crucial Bahrain elections

Hurdles remain high as Iran and world powers press on for nuclear pact

Shebab ‘revenge’ attack leaves 28 innocents dead in Kenya

Strains between Washington and Ankara despite declared agreement

Paypal teams up with AttijariWafa Bank to boost Morocco exports

UN begins sending winter aid to Iraq

Turkey launches all-out war against bonzai drug

Turkey to build bridge across Dardanelles to ease traffic

IS launch major attack on Ramadi

Biden: You cannot think free where you cannot challenge orthodoxy

Does Abbas have enough political influence to stop violence in Jerusalem?

Turkey offers military assistance to Iraq

Bomb hits police post near Helwan University in Egypt