Battle of Gaza (2007)
|Battle of Gaza|
|Part of the Fatah–Hamas conflict|
|Casualties and losses|
2 UN personnel2
|General||Barrier • Crossings: Erez, Karni, Rafah • Tunnels • Goods affected • Israeli-Palestinian conflict|
|2005||Israel's unilateral disengagement plan|
|2007||Battle of Gaza|
|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 Battle of Gaza (Arabic: معركة غزّة) was a military conflict between Hamas and Fatah that took place between June 7 and 15, 2007 in the Gaza Strip. After winning Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, Hamas formed the Palestinan authority national unity government with Fatah in 2007, headed by Ismail Haniya. In June 2007 Hamas fighters took control of the Gaza Strip3 and removed Fatah officials. The ICRC estimated that at least 118 people were killed and more than 550 wounded during the fighting in the week up to June 15.4
Conflict between Fatah and Hamas had been simmering since Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006. Upon taking power, Hamas offered Israel a one-year extension of the truce that was in force and announced they would refuse to honor past agreements between the Palestinian government and Israel. As a result, the United States and the EU cut off aid to the Gaza Strip, and Israel and the Middle East Quartet implemented punitive economic measures against the Gaza Strip.5 The U.S. and Israel attempted to undermine Hamas6 and force it from power while strengthening President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah's position.
The major conflict in Gaza surfaced in December 2006 and was centred on Hamas executive force attempts to control Gaza instead of Fatah.7
On February 8, 2007 Saudi-sponsored negotiations in Mecca produced agreement on a Palestinian 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.8
In 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. In June that year, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip from the national unity government3 after forcing out Fatah.
In May 2007, US officials promised to continue funding a $84 million aid package aimed at improving the fighting ability of the Abbas Presidential Guard loyal to Fatah. Israel, too, allowed light arms to flow to members of the Presidential Guard. 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. "The situation has gotten to be quite dire in Gaza, we have a situation of lawlessness and outright chaos," he said. "This chaotic situation is why the [US] is focused on [helping] the legal, legitimate security forces in our effort to reestablish law and order.", said Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, who was overseeing the US program.9101112
In April 2008 the journalist David Rose reproduced internal US documents in Vanity Fair magazine which he said proved 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. Rose quotes David Wurmser, who served as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief Middle East adviser until his resignation in July 2007, which was a month after the developments described here.
Wurmser accuses 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,” Wurmser says.
The botched plan has rendered the dream of Middle East peace more remote than ever, but what really galls neocons such as Wurmser is the hypocrisy it exposed. “There is a stunning disconnect between the president’s call for Middle East democracy and this policy,” he says. “It directly contradicts it.”13
After the re-ignition of the Fatah-Hamas conflict on June 10, 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.14
On June 12, 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.citation needed 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.15
On June 13, 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 June 14, 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.16 It has been identified with Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan, who has become a figure hated by the Islamists in Gaza.16 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.17
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."17
On the afternoon of June 14, 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 June 14, 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.18 On June 14 Abbas dissolved the Palestinian-Hamas unity government, on June 15, Hamas completed the control over Gaza.19
|“||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.21 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.20 The International Committee of the Red Cross has denounced attacks in and around two hospitals in the northern part of the Gaza strip.22
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;23 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,";24 and at the Muntada, Abbas's seafront presidential compound, witnesses reported seeing Hamas fighters remove computers, documents and guns.24
During the fighting, 6,000 Palestinians were stranded on the Egyptian side of the border at Rafah.citation needed The border was closed after it was shelled from the Gaza Strip side.citation needed Israeli and Egyptian diplomats asked Hamas to allow those stranded to use the Kerem Shalom crossing to return home but Hamas declined the request.citation needed According to Israeli officials, Hamas stated they would attack the crossing if it was opened.citation needed The border would not reopen until the breach of the Gaza-Egypt border in 2008.citation needed
After the takeover, Israel and Egypt began a blockade of the Gaza Strip.
On June 14, 2007 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the dissolution of the current unity government and the declaration of a state of emergency.2526 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".27 Experts in Palestinian law and independent members of the PLC have questioned the legality of the Fayyad government.28 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.28 To date, the Hamas-majority PLC has yet to meet and confirm the Fayyad government.28
As a result of the conflict, the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority is de facto divided into two entities: the Hamas-controlled government of the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, governed by the Palestinian National Authority.29
On June 18, 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.30
In 2010 in response to the Goldstone report, Hamas was said to have apologized to Israel for killing civilians, though later a denial was issued. After the apology, Fatah spokesman Ahmad 'Assaf commented that Hamas ""apologizes to Israel for killing Israeli civilians, but at the same time refuses to apologize to the Palestinian people for crimes it has committed against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, for killing hundreds of Fatah members and for injuring hundreds of other Palestinians... during and after the blood-soaked Gaza coup."31
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."33 The sole Christian bookstore in Gaza was attacked and the owner murdered.34
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.36
- Palestinian Center for Human Rights
- Hamas battles for control of Gaza, BBC News Online, June 13, 2007.
- Urquart, Conal; Black, Ian; Tran, Mark (Friday June 15, 2007). "Hamas takes control of Gaza". Guardian (London). Retrieved October 25, 2011.
- Gaza-Westbank – ICRC Bulletin No. 22 / 2007, AlertNet. Retrieved June 16, 2007.
- "Donors Threaten Aid Cut After Hamas Win – by Emad Mekay". Antiwar.com. January 28, 2006. Archived from the original on March 09 2011. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
- U.S. and Israelis Are Said to Talk of Hamas Ouster. "recognize Israel's right to exist, forswear violence and accept previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements ... or face isolation and collapse." Verified Nov 14, 2007.
- Boudreaux, Richard (January 7, 2007). "Abbas outlaws Hamas's paramilitary Executive Force – The Boston Globe". Boston Globe. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
- "The Palestinian National Unity Government". February 24, 2007. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
- Israel, US, and Egypt back Fatah's fight against Hamas, The Christian Science Monitor, May 25, 2007
- U.S. training Fatah in anti-terror tactics, San Francisco Chronicle, December 14, 2006
- Diplomats fear US wants to arm Fatah for 'war on Hamas', The Times, November 18, 2006
- Israeli defense official: Fatah arms transfer bolsters forces of peace, Haaretz, December 28, 2006
- The Gaza Bombshell, Vanity Fair, April 2008
- Article in The Australian, CNN article, article in Haaretz
- 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.
- 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.
- "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.
- Hamas said it did not apologize for civilian casualties during Israel's war on Gaza International Middle East Media Center Feb 7, 2010
- 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.