After weeks of politically motivated assassinations and murder of children, Hamas gunmen fought fiercely with Fatah-allied border guards to seize control of the Gaza Stripís EU-monitored border crossing with Egypt. Hamasís claim is that this action was necessitated because of Israelís action to block Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh from entering Palestinian Territories with USD 35 million aid in cash. However, latest news reports say that the Presidential guards have taken control back of this post.
Fearing the source of the money that Haniyeh was carrying, his convoy was blocked and later attacked by Fattah gunmen killing one of his bodyguards. Accusing Fattah of ďassassination attempt,Ē Hamas attacked the border post and took control of the border. This incident where more than two dozen people have been wounded is the latest in a series of civil war like incidents where either groups attack each otherís cadre and families (including children) for one reason or the other.
Ironically, Haniyeh was coming back sooner to try stop the in-fighting and the money he was carrying in cash for his bankrupt government, squeezed financially by the international community as retribution for its anti-Israeli policy and failure to recognize past political agreements. In the past, several Hamas officials have carried in large amounts of cash, estimated at USD 50 million, in suitcases across the same border point. Even so, this is far short of the monies needed to sustain the 160,000 government jobs.
Israel got wind of these monies that Haniyeh raised from Iran and Syria and worked with the European monitors to disallow the entry of the money. They clarified that they did not want to stop the Prime Minister but only the money. Since the post can only be operated under the guidance of Europeans, the border guards refused entry to Haniyeh with the money. Ultimately, Haniyeh left behind the money in Egypt and entered Gaza but to be fired on by Fattah border guards. In the melee one bodyguard was killed and his son injured. While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah expressed regret over the incident, Haniyeh laid the blame on them saying that ďwe also know how to deal with this.Ē
The two sides have fallen out rapidly over resumption of peace talks with Israel. Abbas, a moderate, wants peace and co-existence while Hamas wants the destruction of Israel. When Hamas won the elections earlier this year because of a divided opposition and corruption in Abbasís administration, Israel and the international community were concerned about the outcome of this hard-line. After months of failed negotiations, the air donor countries essentially created a financial and physical embargo on Palestinian Territories. Months of stand off later, in a bid to overrule Hamasís hard-line stance, Abbas had threatened to organize a plebiscite to seek the opinion of Palestinians about the future of peace talks. Hamas capitulated and agreed to compromise on previous political agreements. However, they also kidnapped two Israeli soldiers that sparked an invasion of Israeli forces into Gaza. That invasion and the subsequent failed operation into Lebanon destroyed whatever consensus that Abbas built.
But the internal feud had gotten to a point where suspected Hamas gunmen killed three young boys of the Fattah security chief. When the suspected murderers were arrested, the terrorists kidnapped a security officer for ransom and plea bargaining measure. Suspected Fattah gunmen cornered a Hamas Ďcommanderí and killed him execution style.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana condemned the move by Hamas to seize the EU-monitored border crossing and analysts say that this will further complicate the agreement between Israel and Palestine to hand over the post to Palestinian control after years of management by Tel Aviv. According to the deal, the post can only operate in the presence of EU monitors. Israel says that the money was meant to sponsor terror attacks but Hamas denies this charge.