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.

 

Essebsi claims victory in Tunisia presidential poll

Barzani in Mount Sinjar after end of jihadist siege

U-turn: Qatar pledges 'full support' to Sisi's Egypt

UAE blames 'irresponsible' non-OPEC output for oil price plunge

Turkey TV regulator fines popular show over ‘dance with foreigners’

Hollande urges ‘utmost vigilance’ after brutal weekend attacks in France

Turkey graft scandal: Four ex-ministers await decision on their fate

Berlin seeks to set up trauma centre for IS rape victims

Syria claims downing of Israeli reconnaissance drone

Rafah border crossing reopens for two days

Israel parliament approves funding for settler tourism plan

Five jihadists killed in clashes with Egypt police

Coalition targets ‘Islamic State’ in areas north of Aleppo

Libya Islamist-backed government urges foreigners to return to Tripoli

Palestinians enter Egypt as Rafah crossing reopens for two days

Davutoglu accuses EU of 'dirty campaign' against Turkey

Raid on terrorists accidentally kills Saudi youth in Awamiya town

Egypt sentences ‘spy for Israel’ to ten years in prison

Jordan ends eight-year moratorium on death penalty

Egypt President removes powerful spy chief

Tunisia votes for president in final leg of democratic transition

Turkey acquits sociologist over 1998 explosion

EU foreign affairs head to visit Iraq

Turkey court remands Samanyolu TV chief in custody

IS threatens to kill Lebanese soldiers held hostage

Obama concerned about Egypt mass trials

Tough times for oil-rich GCC

Tumbling oil prices cut budgets of Mideast arms exporters

Iraq’s peshmerga ‘break’ Mount Sinjar siege

Turkish media chiefs charged with terrorism

Iraq may delay payment of Kuwait war reparations

Over $900 million needed to help Syria children

Saudi rules out oil output reduction

Dutch populist lawmaker to be tried for 'fewer Moroccans' vow

Outrage in Algeria over Islamist call for Algerian author's death

Iraq Kurds, coalition launch offensive to retake Sinjar

Three years to end Israeli occupation in UN resolution

Yemen’s Huthis seize Sanaa state offices

Somalia appoints new PM after bitter infighting

Blow to Israel: EU court removes Hamas from terror blacklist

Sharp rise in Syria passport applications

Turkey FM visit to Iran highlights Syria divide

UK troops mistreated Iraq detainees in 2004

Saudi to carry on massive public spending

Iran to Australia: We warned you about the gunman