Friday, October 11, 2013

The Palestinians between hammer and anvil of the Arab Strom:

Three major events characterized the Palestinian territories lately: Abu Mazen sent to Damascus a special envoy- Abbas Zaki a senior Fatah member in its Supreme Council and former ambassador to Lebanon, Fatah in the West Bank joined Islamic Jihad in attacking Palestinian Authority targets, and Hamas senior in Gaza, Khalil Hayya, intimidated Egypt in the context of destroying the smuggling tunnels in Philadelphi route and limiting the scope of movement in Rafah border crossing.
Although there is no direct linkage between these three episodes there is a common denominator to all of them which is the intensifying Arab struggles and the place of the Palestinians in middle of them- or better described—between hammer and anvil.
While Hamas in Gaza is deeply rooted in supporting Moslem Brothers in Egypt- despite formal denial of the fact – and serves as link between them and Iran, Ramallah supports the Egyptian army but on the same time tries to exploit Syrian anger at Hamas in order to enter the vacuum created by the closure of Hamas offices in Damascus. In this context, by sending a formal envoy to meet with Assad, Ramallah extended recognition to his regime and opened another front of friction with Hamas who is on the side of the rebels.
But this sharpened frictions also inside the Palestinian arena. Not only Hamas can follow these moves with concern, but also the traditional pro-Syrian factions such as Ahmad Jibril's General Command and the Fatah wing in Lebanon that follow the orders of Munir Maqdah- the Fatah military commander in Lebanon refugee camps and commands from Lebanon the West Bank "Aqsa Martyrs" known as "Abu Mujahed" who kept loyalty to Assad all the way and is very close to Hizbullah.
Two events took place last month with striking similarity: Fatah's Aqsa Martyrs attacked Palestinian police units in refugee camps in Qalandia near Ramallah and Askar near Nablus. The similarity of both attacks suggested that both were planned together and the identity of the culprits –Fatah's Aqsa Martyrs – gives no room to suspect that both were planned in Lebanon.
This is at least what the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah may have suspected and as a result Fatah in Ramallah expelled from the moment seniors in Lebanon that are identified with Munir Maqdah. In addition, the Palestinian police launched arrests in Jenin area where the coalition of Aqsa Martyrs and Islamic Jihad is very strong.
We have to understand al-Hayya threats on the Egyptian army in the same context. Of course the closure of Rafah border crossing and the destruction of the tunnels are causing Hamas rule tremendous difficulties. Add to it the initiative of the local "Tamrrud" group to trigger popular outcry to topple Hamas rule in similar lines of the "Tamrrud" initiative in Egypt that caused the overthrow of Moslem brothers in Egypt, but Hamas could have faced realities and have tried to make compromise with general Sisi and/or renew the reconciliation talks with Ramallah. But instead they are determined to help Moslem Brothers all the way and renew their old alliance with Iran—which never stopped as far as the Gaza wing of Hamas is concerned. We cannot rule out that Hayya's threats on Egypt are backed by Iran.
This is the common denominator with the West Bank events.
What does it mean with regards to Hamas-Fatah relations? What is obvious is that reconciliation is farer than ever before. But even more dangerous: Hamas may suspect that Ramallah is pressuring Egyptian army to invade Gaza in order to resume Fatah rule in the lost part of Palestine. There is no evidence that such a pressure exist and we doubt whether Egypt has the energy to open another front in this timing but suspects exist anyway and may affect Hamas decisions. Ramallah's steady demands to return to Rafah crossing may well be interpreted in Gaza as a desire to overthrow Hamas.
What might be the consequences? Aqsa Martyrs attacks on Palestinian Authority targets in the West Bank may highlight the way. Until now, Hamas spoiled for Ramallah in attacking Israeli targets. This time they may join Fatah in attacking directly Palestinian Authority targets. Hamas is not interested in opening a front with Israel in this timing, but as far as they may suspect that the PLO is planning a takeover in Gaza they may try to prevent it by directly attacking Ramallah