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7476Israel Stokes Up Hamas-Fatah Strife

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    Jun 6, 2007
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      Hebron turned into 'ghost town'

      Curfews imposed on Palestinians do not apply to Jewish settlers
      Human rights groups say Israeli curbs on Palestinians in the West Bank
      town of Hebron have forced thousands of them to leave homes and close
      B'Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said Israel
      had in effect expropriated central Hebron to protect some 650 Jewish
      settlers there.

      Israel had breached the Geneva Convention prohibiting forced transfer,
      which was a war crime, the groups said.

      The Israeli military says curbs are to maintain order and protect life.

      "The policy of separation founded on ethnic criteria has caused a
      massive exodus of Palestinians from Hebron's city centre," the joint
      human rights report said.

      "Israeli activities have been carried out on the basis of a
      preferential policy toward settlers that has turned the centre of
      Hebron into a ghost town."

      Military closures

      The groups said about 1,000 Palestinian homes, more than 40% of homes
      in the centre of Hebron, had been vacated because of Israeli closures
      in the centre of the city.

      Two-thirds of these were vacated during the course of the second
      Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which began in 2000.

      Troops look after settlers' interests not Palestinians', the report says
      More than 75% of shops were shut down, the joint B'Tselem/ACRI survey
      said, 62% of them since 2000 and a quarter of them as a result of
      military orders.

      "They created conditions that made the Palestinians move," B'Tselem
      spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli said. "The army can't now say that they
      didn't know this was going to happen."

      An Israeli military statement said the report had failed to reflect
      the complexities of Hebron, and that the restrictions were imposed to
      protect both Israeli and Palestinian residents.

      "In this complicated reality the military commander is required, and
      is in fact obliged, to take such actions on purely security grounds,"
      a military statement said.

      'Lies, distortions'

      The report said the army generally did not intervene when Palestinian
      residents were subjected to attacks by militant settlers, which also
      caused people to leave.

      "Dozens of settlers attacked my house at once, and they burned things
      inside the house," former resident Mufid Sharabati is quoted saying.

      "We called the Israeli police and the army, but nobody helped us."

      Settler spokesman David Wilder denounced the report as lies and
      distortions, and said Palestinians left because of curfews imposed
      because of attacks on settlers.

      "We have never tried to throw anybody out, and we have not tried to
      keep anyone here," he said.

      Hebron is the only place in the Israeli-occupied West Bank where a
      small community of Jewish settlers lives in the heart of a Palestinian

      Under an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, Israel evacuated
      80% of Hebron in 1997, remaining in an area around the Old City where
      650 Jewish settlers live among about 30,000 Palestinians.

      All Israeli settlements built on land captured in the 1967 war are
      illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.


      Two Palestinian boys are shot dead by Israeli troops in the northern
      Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources say.

      Two Palestinian boys have been shot dead by Israeli troops in the
      northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources say.
      The children were estimated to be between eight and 13 years old. They
      have not yet been identified.

      An Israeli army spokesman said the army had shot at several
      Palestinians near the Gaza-Israel border fence.

      He said they were crawling towards the fence near Beit Lahiya, "did
      not heed repeated calls to stop and planted a suspicious device close
      to the fence".

      A separate spokeswoman said: "We identified hitting three. One was
      lightly injured and was taken to hospital inside Israel."

      The other two were evacuated by Palestinian ambulance workers, but died.

      Medical staff at a Gaza hospital said they had been hit in the chest.

      They said the children had reportedly been scouring the area near the
      border fence for scrap metal, Reuters reported.


      Israel Stokes Up Hamas-Fatah Strife
      In Gaza, Considers Ground Invasion
      By Jean Shaoul
      21 May, 2007
      World Socialist Web

      On May 17, Israel gave the go-ahead for 500 Fatah
      fighters to cross into the Gaza Strip from Egypt, so
      as to lend support to the forces loyal to Palestinian
      Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who are fighting
      Hamas forces loyal to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
      The 500 are reported to have been trained under a
      US-sponsored programme. Many Fatah security personnel
      have received training in Arab and European Union
      countries, often by American and Russian personnel.

      The previous day, an Israeli military helicopter had
      fired at a target in Rafah, in the southern Gaza
      Strip, killing four members of Hamas's Executive Force
      and injuring 18. Israeli troops opened fire at Gaza's
      only cargo terminal at the Karni crossing, where a
      shoot out occurred between Hamas and Fatah, killing
      one person.

      Also on May 17, Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz,
      of the Labour Party ordered the Israeli Defence Forces
      (IDF) to launch air strikes against Hamas and
      suspected militants. In one strike, Israeli forces hit
      the headquarters of Hamas's Executive Force, its armed
      security group that has operated in Gaza since Hamas
      took power in January 2006. The Israeli military
      carried out targeted assassinations, blowing up cars
      it claimed were carrying suspected militants. Hamas
      said that three of its members were killed. Two
      further missiles hit a pick-up truck killing a family,
      including 13- and 18-year-old brothers.

      Artillery forces massed on the border and some tanks
      crossed into Gaza. A ground force entered the northern
      part of Gaza, but Israel's military stopped short of
      an all-out invasion. This was followed on May 18 with
      several more air strikes. In all, at least 20 people
      have been killed and dozens injured by the Israeli

      Israel claims that its actions were aimed at
      destroying the ability of Hamas to launch crude
      missiles, known as Qassem rockets, against Israel's
      southern towns. In the past week, Hamas has fired more
      than 80 rockets, injuring at least seven people,
      damaging several houses, and forcing several hundred
      to flee their homes. Sederot, a border town of
      impoverished Israelis of North African and Middle
      Eastern descent, which has a high unemployment rate,
      has born the brunt of the missiles.

      A senior Israeli military officer said that the goal
      of the current operation in Gaza was to "make Hamas
      pay" for its rocket attacks against Israel. But he
      then made clear that this was not the main issue for
      Israel by adding that the IDF operations could
      continue even if Hamas stopped firing rockets.

      Israel is not "conducting a dialogue" with Hamas, he
      said, and the IDF operations were not necessarily
      dependent on the continuation of rocket attacks.
      "We're not just attacking real estate. We want to make
      Hamas pay for the terror," he said. The officer said
      the IDF would present its plans for continuing the
      operation to the cabinet.

      The military has tried to pretend that its actions are
      unrelated to the ongoing factional fighting between
      Hamas and Fatah, but the sheer scale of the attack and
      the Palestinian casualties gives the lie to this.

      On May 20, Israel's security cabinet approved plans to
      step up operations against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in
      Gaza. It authorised operations to dismantle "terrorist
      infrastructure," but stopped short of authorising a
      full-scale ground invasion.

      The violence that flared up a week ago has resulted in
      by far the worst casualties in the warfare that has
      simmered on and off between Hamas and Fatah for two
      decades. Peretz says his sources tell him the
      infighting has left 73 dead so far, mostly Fatah
      members. Dozens more have been wounded, including
      civilians caught in the crossfire.

      Raging street battles broke out as tensions mounted,
      threatening to bring an end to the Hamas-Fatah
      coalition government sworn in on March 17. Israel
      never recognised the government and has continued its
      efforts to isolate and starve Gaza and hasten its
      political descent into civil war.

      Palestinian Interior Minister Hani Kawassmeh
      repeatedly found that his plans to coordinate Fatah
      and Hamas' militias were countermanded by his security
      chief, Rashid Abu Shbak, who is on the payroll of
      Mahmoud Dahlan, a Fatah warlord in Gaza. Shbak ordered
      Fatah forces out onto the streets of Gaza without
      either Hamas's agreement or Kawassmeh's instructions,
      precipitating the violence of the past week. For
      Kawassmeh, this was the last straw and he resigned his
      post in the government.

      Later, Hamas forces attacked Shback's home, killing at
      least five of his bodyguards. Shback and his family
      were not at their heavily guarded residence at the

      A colour photograph in the Financial Times of Shback's
      home shows something more like the Alhambra Palace in
      Grenada than the average slum in Gaza City or the
      refugee camps. It adds fuel to the widespread belief
      that the real reason for the Palestinian Authority's
      burgeoning security forces, the largest per capita in
      the world, is not to protect the Palestinian people
      from Israeli attacks, but to police a US- and
      Israeli-dictated settlement, while protecting the
      Palestinian millionaires and billionaires from the
      Palestinian people.

      Last Wednesday, when casualties had mounted to 41 in
      just four days, there were mass demonstrations in
      Ramallah in the West Bank and Gaza City calling for an
      end to the fighting. But in Gaza City, at least eight
      were wounded when shooting broke out, scattering the
      crowds of people. According to the UN Office of
      Humanitarian Affairs, more than 150 Palestinians have
      been killed and 650 wounded in the factional fighting
      since the beginning of the year.

      There is no agreement within Israel's ruling elite as
      to what approach to take to the near-civil war raging
      in Gaza and whether to authorise a full-scale ground

      Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has so far rejected an
      invasion. He clearly fears a second military debacle
      after Lebanon, particularly in light of reports from
      the security services that Hamas has doubled its
      military forces to 10,000, and allegations that it has
      smuggled large numbers of anti-tank missiles and
      weapons-grade explosives into Gaza. In any event, it
      would be difficult to move directly and immediately to
      such an option, after Israel's 2006 debacle in

      His stance at this point appears to have the support
      of Washington, which fears that an Israeli invasion
      could destabilise the Middle East. The US is focused
      on continuing to support Abbas as its local puppet. To
      this end, Israel has allowed money to be transferred
      to Abbas's forces and for Fatah to receive training in

      But this policy has backfired. The more that Abbas is
      seen to have US and Israeli backing, the more the
      Palestinian people become alienated from Abbas and
      Fatah, already widely despised because of their
      corruption and inefficiency. Reports that the US has
      been supplying Abbas's forces with guns and millions
      of dollars to take on Hamas's supporters have added
      fuel to the fire.

      One veteran Fatah member admitted that it lacked the
      support of the Palestinian public. "Most Palestinians
      still don't trust us," he said. "Most Palestinians
      still hold us responsible for the financial corruption
      in the Palestinian Authority. And what's worse is that
      many Palestinians don't like the fact that we are
      being supported by the US and Israel."

      Israeli leaders supporting the pro-Abbas policy have
      argued that Fatah did well against Hamas's forces,
      which were better armed, better trained and
      numerically stronger, in the clash last Tuesday at the
      Karni checkpoint.

      Whatever the hesitations and internal differences
      among Israeli policymakers, the general drift is
      towards an open military conflict. Many of Israel's
      military and intelligence chiefs and the most hawkish
      political elements led by Likud leader Benyamin
      Netanyahu have insisted that Abbas is incapable of
      policing the Palestinian Authority.

      Speaking at a Likud faction meeting at the Menachem
      Begin Heritage Centre marking the 30th anniversary of
      the party's 1977 rise to power, Netanyahu said that
      the government "could evacuate whomever necessary,
      enact a closure on the Gaza Strip, stop providing
      services like electricity and water, or decide on a
      limited invasion of four or five kilometres to
      distance the range of the Qassems."

      For his part, Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman
      of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu has called for more
      intense ground activity in the Gaza Strip. He even
      threatened to withdraw his eleven Knesset members from
      the government and bring it down, stating, "The
      present coalition has reached the moment of truth.
      Either we dismantle Hamas, or we dismantle the

      The Gaza Division commander, Brigadier General Moshe
      Tamir, has long urged that infantry and tank brigades
      be deployed on the ground in the Gaza Strip. He has
      been pushing a hard-line approach at cabinet meetings
      on Gaza, urging Olmert and Peretz to give the green
      light for an invasion.

      He and others in the army's high command want to crush
      Hamas "before Gaza turns into another southern
      Lebanon," said a source. Their plan is to divide Gaza
      into three parts, seal its borders, and crush Hamas by
      flooding its towns and villages with troops in an
      operation intended to last no more than a week. Israel
      would rely on speed, superior technology, better
      training and intelligence, numerical superiority and,
      not least, sheer brutality to smash Hamas.

      The aim—for which they seek US backing—is not so much
      to install another government as to create such
      devastation and privation that the Palestinians will
      finally submit to being penned into impoverished
      ghettoes, or leave altogether. With the Palestinian
      territories virtually sealed off from the outside
      world, unable to get the agricultural produce upon
      which the Palestinian economy depends, poverty is the
      rule and shortages are widespread.

      When Saudi Arabia brokered an agreement between Fatah
      and Hamas in Mecca last February leading to the
      establishment of the unity coalition, promises were
      secured from several Arab states to bankroll the
      Palestinian Authority, but as yet only the United Arab
      Emirates have come up with any cash.

      The US and the European Union have maintained their
      own boycott of the Palestinian Authority. And while
      foreign aid has doubled to $900 million, Israel has
      refused to release the $800 million in taxes it has
      collected on behalf of the PA, and the total is rising
      by $55 million a month. Without funding, neither the
      PA nor the coalition government can survive much



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