Fatah–Hamas battle in Gaza
|Battle of Gaza|
|Part of the Fatah–Hamas conflict|
|Casualties and losses|
2 UN personnel2
|General||Tunnels • Import|
|2008||Breach of the Gaza–Egypt border • Gaza War|
|2009||Viva Palestina: "Lifeline to Gaza" • "Lifeline 3"|
|2010||Gaza flotilla raid (flotilla; ships: Mavi Marmara, Rachel Corrie; participants, reactions, legal, Turkel Commission (Israel), Gaza journey of MV Rachel Corrie) • Jewish Boat to Gaza • Viva Palestina "Lifeline 5" • Road to Hope|
|2011||Freedom Flotilla II (participants)|
The Fatah–Hamas battle in Gaza, also referred to as Hamas' takeover of Gaza was a short military conflict between Fatah and Hamas, that took place in the Gaza Strip between 10 and 15 June 2007. It was a climax in the Fatah–Hamas conflict, centered around the struggle for power, after Fatah lost the parliamentary elections of 2006. Hamas fighters took control of the Gaza Strip3 and removed Fatah officials. The battle resulted in the dissolution of the unity government and the de facto division of the Palestinian territories into two entities, the West Bank governed by the Palestinian National Authority, and Gaza governed by Hamas.
In the preceding periode, the US and Israel apparently strengthened Fatah's military power to topple Hamas.
- 1 Background
- 2 The battle
- 3 Military coup
- 4 Division of government
- 5 Violations of international law
- 6 Aftermath
- 7 Notes
- 8 External links
Ahead the elections, Hamas dropped its 1988 call for the destruction of Israel, but said that it had a "right to act to regain its rights and end the occupation by using all means, including armed resistance" as part of "national liberation". A Hamas candidate said that a final decision on whether to recognise Israel would be left to future generations.5
Following the elections, the Quartet (United States, Russia, United Nations, and European Union) conditioned future foreign assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) on the future government's commitment to non-violence, recognition of the State of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements. Hamas rejected these demands.
In March 2006, two months after Hamas' victory in the elections, the party formed a Hamas dominated government headed by Ismail Haniyeh. The Quartet suspended its foreign assistance program and Israel imposed economic sanctions. The US and Israel attempted to undermine Hamas and force it from power while strengthening the position of President Mahmoud Abbas.678 Russia invited Hamas leaders to Moscow for talks that were intended "to move toward a situation in which Hamas is a legitimate and useful part of the Middle East peace process".8
On 6 June 2006, Haniyeh sent a letter to US president Bush, in which he called on the "American government to have direct negotiations with the elected government", offered a longterm truce with Israel, while accepting a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. He urged to end the international boycott, because it would "encourage violence and chaos in the whole region". The US government did not respond and maintained its boycott.9
The Abbas/Fatah plan to replace the government
Under pressure of the international sanctions, Fatah developed a plan to replace the Hamas government. According to the plan, a National Unity Government or a government of technocrats would be formed to prepare early presidential and legislative elections. If the establishment of a government meeting the Quartet conditions would fail, President Abbas would announce a state of emergency, dismiss the present cabinet and form an emergency government, or call for early elections. The developers of the plan were aware of the problem that an emergency government legally could govern only for 1 month without PLC vote of confidence. The plan supposed a strong enlargement of Fatah's Presidential Guard, internal reform of Fatah, empowering of presidential institutions, resumption of aid by the international community through the President’s Office, and end of the illegal withhold of taxes by Israel.10
On 8 February 2007, Saudi-sponsored negotiations in Mecca produced agreement on a national unity government, signed by Abbas on behalf of Fatah and Khaled Mashal on behalf of Hamas. The new government was called on to achieve Palestinian national goals as approved by the Palestine National Council, the clauses of the Basic Law and the National Reconciliation Document (the "Prisoners' Document") as well as the decisions of the Arab summit.11
On 17 March 2007, the Palestinian Legislative Council established a national unity government, with 83 representatives voting in favor and three against. Government ministers were sworn in by Abu Mazen, the chairman on the Palestinian Authority, at a ceremony held simultaneously in Gaza and Ramallah.
The Abbas/Fatah plan to take control of the Gaza Strip by military force backfired in June, when Hamas established a separate government, after forcing out Fatah.3
According to former British intelligence officer Alastair Crooke, the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair decided in 2003 to tie UK and EU security policy in the West Bank and Gaza to a US-led counter-insurgency against Hamas. This lead to an internal policy contradiction that pre-empted the EU from mounting any effective foreign policy on the "peace process" alternative to that of the US. At a political level, the EU "talked the talk" of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, Palestinian state-building and democracy. At the practical level, the EU "walked the walk" of disruption, detention, seizing finances, and destroying the capabilities of one [Hamas] of the two factions and prevented the parliament from exercising any function.12
MI6, in conjunction with the British government drew up a secret plan for a wide-ranging crackdown on Hamas. In 2004, the plan was passed to Jibril Rajoub, a senior Fatah official of the PA. The bulk of the plan has since been carried out.1314
The plan was revealed in the Palestine Papers and leaked to the press in 2011. Objectives were inter alia: "Degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists – Hamas, PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] and the [Fatah-linked] Al Aqsa Brigades – through the disruption of their leaderships' communications and command and control capabilities; the detention of key middle-ranking officers; and the confiscation of their arsenals and financial resources".
The plan further said "We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ figures, making sure they are well-treated, with EU funding" And: "This will reduce Hamas' and PIJ's popularity and enhance the ability of the PA to take them on. The Roadmap sets out most of the key requirements of Israel: an end to 'deportations, attacks on civilians, confiscation and/or demolition of Palestinian homes and property ... (and) destruction of Palestinian institutions and infrastructure'. To these we would add assassinations and construction of the wall/fence within the Occupied Territories."
The Quartet's initial role would be "to press Arab states to move agressively against Hamas funders and infrastructure on their territory". 15 The plan asked for the closure of radio stations and the replacement of imams in mosques.13
According to Crooke, the Quartet conditions for engagement with Hamas, which the EU had endorsed after the 2006 elections, were conditions raised precisely in order to prevent Hamas from meeting them, rather than as guidelines intended to open the path for diplomatic solutions. Then, British and American intelligence services were preparing a "soft" coup to remove Hamas from power in Gaza.12
US, Israeli and Arab states involvement
Large part of the US aid to the Palestinian Authority aimed at improving the fighting ability of the Fatah-loyal Presidential Guard (PG) to counter the strength of Hamas.16 Israel allowed US training and delivery of light arms. The US insisted that all of its aid to the Presidential Guard is "nonlethal" consisting of training, uniforms, and supplies, as well as paying for better infrastructure at Gaza's borders.17 In November 2006, the US proposed the Quartet to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian security forces with additional guns and fighters, alarming other Western nations, who saw it as supporting one faction in a potential civil war. According to The Times, proposals included doubling the size of Abbas’s Presidential Guard and persuading Israel to allow thousands of rifles into Gaza. The US view was characterized by an observer as ‘If there is going to be a fight, we might as well make sure the right person wins’18
According to the IISS, the June escalation was triggered by Hamas's conviction that the PA's Presidential Guard, loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, was being positioned to take control of Gaza. The US had helped build up the Presidential Guard to 3,500 men since August 2006.19 The US committed $59 million for training and non-lethal equipment for the Presidential Guard, and persuaded Arab allies to fund the purchase of further weapons. Jordan and Egypt hosted at least two battalions for training. Israel, too, allowed light arms to flow to members of the Presidential Guard.19
In December 2006, Egypt transferred a large quantity of arms and ammunition to PG in the Gaza Strip, with Israel's approval.20 Reuters mentioned $86 million US support, inter alia for supply of weapons by Jordan and Egypt.21
In January 2007, US officials expected to ask Congress for nearly $100 million in aid to help train and supply his expanding Presidential Guard. The Bush administration and Israel coordinated arms shipments to Abbas's forces from Egypt. 6
On 10 June 2007, the Fatah-Hamas conflict culminated in clashes, between the Fatah-allied forces on one side and the Hamas-allied forces on the other side. Major Fatah forces were the National Security Forces, notably the "Presidential Guard". Main force of Hamas was the "Executive Force".
Hamas militants seized several Fatah members and threw one of them, Mohammed Sweirki, an officer in the elite Palestinian Presidential Guard, off the top of the tallest building in Gaza, a 15-story apartment building. In retaliation, Fatah militants attacked and killed the imam of the city's Great Mosque, Mohammed al-Rifati. They also opened fire on the home of Prime Minister Ismail Haniya. Just before midnight, a Hamas militant was thrown off a 12-story building.22
On 12 June, Hamas began attacking posts held by their Fatah faction rivals. Hundreds of Hamas fighters had moved on the positions after giving their occupants two hours to leave. A major Fatah base in the northern town of Jabaliya fell to Hamas fighters, witnesses told AFP news agency. Heavy fighting also raged around the main Fatah headquarters in Gaza City, with Hamas militants attacking with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons.24
On 13 June, Hamas seized the headquarters of the Fatah-controlled National Security Forces in northern Gaza. Gunmen fought for control of high-rise buildings serving as sniper positions and Hamas said it had bulldozed a Fatah outpost controlling Gaza's main north-south road. Also on that day, an explosion wrecked the Khan Younis headquarters of the Fatah-linked Preventive Security Service, killing five people.2
On 14 June, Hamas gunmen completed the takeover of the central building of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service's headquarters in the Gaza Strip. The Hamas members took over vehicles and weapons in the compound, which was considered the Palestinian Authority's main symbol in the Strip. The Preventive Security Service cooperated with Israel in the past, and has been armed by the United States.25 It has been identified with Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan, who has become a figure hated by the Islamists in Gaza.25 The gunmen who entered the compound held a prayer there and waved a flag on the building's rooftop. At least 10 people were killed. Hamas TV broadcast a display of weapons inside the building, as well as jeeps, mortar shells and bulletproof vests seized in the compound, which according to Hamas, were smuggled to Fatah by Israel and the Americans in the past few months through the border with Egypt.26
Hamas members held a prayer in the compound, which they referred to as the "heresy compound." Hamas also changed the name of the neighborhood where the building is located from "Tel al-Hawa" to "Tel al-Islam."26
On the afternoon of 14 June, the Associated Press reported an explosion that rocked Gaza City. According to Fatah officials, security forces withdrew from their post and blew it up in order to not let Hamas take it over. The security forces afterwards repositioned to another location. Later on 14 June, Hamas also took control of the southern Gaza Strip city Rafah which lies near an already closed border crossing with Egypt, which is monitored by Israeli, Palestinian and European Union security forces. The EU staff had, at that time, already been relocated to the Israeli city of Ashkelon for safety reasons.27 On 14 June Abbas dissolved the Palestinian-Hamas unity government, on June 15, Hamas completed the control over Gaza.28
As a result of the battle, Hamas got complete control of Gaza. The pro-Fatah view is, that it was a plain military coup by Hamas. The pro-Hamas view is, that the US drew up a plan to arm Fatah cadres with the aim of forcefully removing Hamas from power in Gaza. According to the pro-Hamas view, Fatah fighters, led by strongman Mohammed Dahlan with logistical support from the US Central Intelligence Agency, were planning to carry out a bloody coup against Hamas.29 Then, Hamas pre-emptively took control over Gaza.
In an April 2008 article in Vanity Fair magazine, the journalist David Rose published confidential documents, apparently originating from the US State Department, which would prove that the United States collaborated with the Palestinian Authority and Israel to attempt the violent overthrow of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and that Hamas pre-empted the coup. The documents suggest that a government with Hamas should meet the demands of the Middle East Quartet, otherwise President Mahmoud Abbas should declare a state of emergency, which effectively would dissolve the current unity government, or the government should collapse by other means.3031 Rose quotes former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief Middle East adviser David Wurmser, accusing the Bush administration of “engaging in a dirty war in an effort to provide a corrupt dictatorship [led by Abbas] with victory.” He believes that Hamas had no intention of taking Gaza until Fatah forced its hand. “It looks to me that what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen”31
Division of government
On 14 June 2007, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the dissolution of the current unity government and the declaration of a state of emergency.3233 Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya was dismissed, and Abbas ruled Gaza and the West Bank by presidential decree. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded by declaring that President Abbas' decision was "in practical terms...worthless", asserting that Mr. Haniya "remains the head of the government even if it was dissolved by the president".34 Experts in Palestinian law and independent members of the PLC have questioned the legality of the Fayyad government.35 According to the Palestinian Basic Law, the President can dismiss the Prime Minister but the dismissed government continues to function as a caretaker government until a new government is formed and receives a vote of confidence from an absolute majority of the Palestinian Legislative Council.35 To date, the Hamas-majority PLC has yet to meet and confirm the Fayyad government.35
As a result of the conflict, the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority was de facto divided into two entities: the Hamas-controlled government of the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, governed by the Palestinian National Authority.36
On 18 June key international powers, including the EU, US and Israel showed public support for the new administration without Hamas. The EU and US normalized the tie to the Palestinian National Authority and resumed direct aid. Israel announced it would return frozen tax revenue of about USD800m to the new administration.37
Violations of international law
|“||These attacks by both Hamas and Fatah constitute brutal assaults on the most fundamental humanitarian principles. The murder of civilians not engaged in hostilities and the willful killing of captives are war crimes, pure and simple.||”|
Human Rights Watch accused both sides with violations of international humanitarian law, in some cases amounting to war crimes.39 The accusations include the targeting and killing of civilians, public executions of political opponents and captives, throwing prisoners off high-rise apartment buildings, fighting in hospitals, and shooting from a jeep marked with "TV" insignias.38 The International Committee of the Red Cross has denounced attacks in and around two hospitals in the northern part of the Gaza strip.40
During the fighting several incidents of looting took place: a crowd took furniture, wall tiles and personal belongings from the villa of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat;41 the home of former Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan was also looted: "An AFP correspondent witnessed dozens of Palestinians taking everything they could carry from Dahlan's villa – furniture, pot plants and even the kitchen sink, complete with plumbing fixtures such as taps,";42 and at the Muntada, Abbas's seafront presidential compound, witnesses reported seeing Hamas fighters remove computers, documents and guns.42
Possible religious consequences
Sheik Abu Saqer, leader of Jihadia Salafiya, an Islamic outreach movement that recently announced the opening of a "military wing" to enforce Muslim law in Gaza. "I expect our Christian neighbors to understand the new Hamas rule means real changes. They must be ready for Islamic rule if they want to live in peace in Gaza."44 The sole Christian bookstore in Gaza was attacked and the owner murdered.45
According to Muhammad Abdel-El of the Hamas-allied Popular Resistance Committees, Hamas and its allies have captured quantities of foreign intelligence, including CIA files. Abu Abdullah of Hamas' "military wing", the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, claims Hamas will make portions of the documents public, in a stated attempt to expose covert relations between the United States and "traitor" Arab countries.citation needed
While Hamas collected most of the 15,000 weapons registered to the former security forces, it failed to collect more than a fraction of the 400,000 weapons that are in the hands of various clans, and said that it would not touch weapons used for fighting Israel, only those that might be used against Hamas.47
- Palestinian Center for Human Rights
- Hamas battles for control of Gaza, BBC News Online, June 13, 2007.
- Guardian, 15 June 2007, Hamas takes control of Gaza
- Gaza-Westbank – ICRC Bulletin No. 22 / 2007, AlertNet. Retrieved June 16, 2007.
- Chris McGreal, Hamas drops call for destruction of Israel from manifesto. The Guardian, 12 January 2006
- Abbas outlaws Hamas's paramilitary Executive Force. Richard Boudreaux, The Boston Globe/Los Angeles Times, 7 January 2007
- U.S. and Israelis Are Said to Talk of Hamas Ouster.. New York Times, 14 February 2006. "recognize Israel's right to exist, forswear violence and accept previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements ... or face isolation and collapse."
- Erlanger, Steven (2006-02-18). "Hamas Leader Faults Israeli Sanction Plan". The New York Times. Retrieved April 22, 2010.
- Haniyeh wrote the letter on 6 June 2006. In 2006 letter to Bush, Haniyeh offered compromise with Israel. Haaretz, 14 November 2008
- Palestinian Vision for Resolving the Current PA Crisis (Draft #6). The Palestine Papers, 30 October 2006. On 
- The Palestinian National Unity Government. Shlomo Brom, Canada Free Press, 24 February 2007
- Europe's failure on Middle East peace. Alastair Crooke, The Guardian, 30 January 2011
- Palestine papers reveal MI6 drew up plan for crackdown on Hamas. Ian Black and Seumas Milne, Guardian, 25 January 2011
- Palestine papers: MI6 plan proposed internment – and hotline to Israelis. Ian Black and Seumas Milne, Guardian, 25 January 2011
- UK Security Plan: British MI6 Palestinian Security Plan with Annex, 2003. On 
- U.S. training Fatah in anti-terror tactics, San Francisco Chronicle, 14 December 2006
- Israel, US, and Egypt back Fatah's fight against Hamas, Christian Science Monitor, 25 May 2007
- Diplomats fear US wants to arm Fatah for 'war on Hamas'. Stephen Farrell, The Times, 18 November 2006. On web.archive.org
- Hamas coup in Gaza.International Institute for Strategic Studies, Volume 13, Issue 5; June 2007
- Israeli defense official: Fatah arms transfer bolsters forces of peace, Haaretz, 28 December 2006
- Six killed in Hamas ambush on Gaza convoy. Nidal al-Mughrabi, Reuters, 1 February 2007. On web.archive.org
- Haaretz/Associated Press, 10 June 2007, Palestinian gunmen target Haniyeh's home in Gaza. On web.archive.org
- Abraham Rabinovich, Deadly escalation in Fatah-Hamas feud. The Australian, 12 June 2007. On web.archive.org
- Hamas launches new Gaza attacks, BBC News Online, June 12, 2007.
- A pyrrhic victory, The Guardian, June 16, 2007.
- We'll execute Fatah leaders, Israel News, June 14, 2007.
- Update, cnn.com.
- This ‘Bombshell’ Took a Year Falling. Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Inter Press Service, 2 April 2008
- 1. Talking points. US State Department, date unknown; 2. Plan B. US State Department, 2007; 3. An action plan for the Palestinian Presidency. US State Department, 2 March 2007
- The Gaza Bombshell. David Rose, Vanity Fair, April 2008. Original without links.
- "Abbas Dissolves Palestinian Authority Government in Wake of Hamas-Fatah War". Fox News. June 14, 2007. Archived from the original on June 16 2007. Retrieved June 14, 2007.
- Levinson, Charles; Matthew Moore (June 14, 2007). "Abbas declares state of emergency in Gaza". The Daily Telegraph (London). Archived from the original on June 18 2007. Retrieved June 14, 2007.
- "Abbas sacks Hamas-led government". BBC News. June 14, 2007. Archived from the original on July 14 2007. Retrieved June 14, 2007.
- Abrahams, Fred; Human Rights Watch (2008). Internal fight: Palestinian abuses in Gaza and the West Bank. Human Rights Watch. p. 14.
- Erlanger, Steven (June 13, 2007). "Hamas Forces Seize Control Over Much of Gaza". The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
- "Key powers back Abbas government". BBC News. June 18, 2007. Retrieved June 18, 2007.
- Gaza: Armed Palestinian Groups Commit Grave Crimes, Human Rights Watch, June 13, 2007.
- Armed Palestinian Groups Commit Grave Crimes, HRW via BBSNews, New York, June 14, 2007.
- Hospitals offer no safety in Gaza strip, ABC News, June 13, 2007.
- Crowd loots Gaza home of Arafat, Ali Waked and Reuters, June 16, 2007.
- Hamas goes on Gaza looting spree, IOL, June 15, 2007.
- Hamas controls Gaza, says it will stay in power
- 'Christians must accept Islamic rule' – Israel News, Ynetnews
- Ormestad, Catrin (April 30, 2010). "'I know how to make you a Muslim' – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News". Haaretz. Israel. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
- Hamas seizes US-financed weapons, equipment, Middle East Newsline, June 14, 2007.
- "Few Gazans turn in weapons as Hamas deadline for arms collection expires". Haaretz. AP. June 21, 2007.