Hamas: Fatah using 'insurgency' tactics

Posted in Israel / Palestine | 05-Oct-07 | Author: Khaled Abu Toameh| Source: Jerusalem Post

Fatah and Hamas loyalists clash in the Gaza Strip, Friday.

After failing to organize a popular uprising against Hamas in Gaza, Fatah has begun resorting to "insurgency" tactics in a bid to undermine the Islamist movement, Hamas officials said Thursday.

The officials told The Jerusalem Post Fatah militiamen were behind a series of bombings that targeted Hamas members and institutions over the past few weeks.

On Tuesday, three Fatah men were killed in a "work accident" as they were trying to place a bomb near a Hamas security installation west of Gaza City. The three, Hudaibi Khader, Yusef Hamadeh and Mu'taz al-Qami, belonged to Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades.

"They were killed when the bomb they were carrying was detonated prematurely," said a senior Hamas official. "We have evidence that Fatah is behind a series of explosions that occurred in Gaza recently."

The official dismissed as "untrue" claims by Fatah that the three men were killed when Hamas militiamen fired a rocket at their vehicle.

The Aksa Martyrs Brigades threatened to avenge the killing of its members. The group accused Hamas of eliminating the three "while they were on a jihad mission" - meaning an attack on Israeli targets.

Early Thursday morning, three Hamas militiamen serving in the local police were wounded, one of them critically, when a bomb was detonated near their vehicle at the Askoulah junction in Gaza City. Again, Hamas accused Fatah of standing behind the attack.

Hamas's security forces on Thursday arrested Maher Khwaiter, a Fatah activist from the city's Zeitun neighborhood, on suspicion of involvement in the bombing.

Another Hamas official told the Post that Fatah was behind at least 14 attacks against Hamas figures and institutions in the Gaza Strip over the past month. He added that Fatah's decision to resort to an "armed struggle reflected Fatah's frustration after failing to ignite a popular uprising against Hamas."

Over the past two months, Fatah has organized a series of peaceful protests against Hamas in the Gaza Strip; thousands of Fatah supporters participated in open-air prayers to protest against Hamas's June "coup."

The protests, which have meanwhile been suspended, led to street clashes between the two parties, seriously embarrassing the Hamas government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

Most of the alleged Fatah operations have targeted security vehicles used by Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip. Following the attacks, the Hamas Ministry of Interior, which is in charge of security in the Strip, instructed all its operatives to check their vehicles before using them and to be on alert for roadside bombs.

"Apparently, Fatah is trying to copy the tactics of the anti-American insurgents in Iraq," said a Palestinian journalist in Gaza City. "It's ironic that Hamas is now describing the Fatah attacks as acts of terrorism."

Khaled Abu Hilal, a Fatah dissident closely associated with Hamas, said the latest wave of bombings was designed to destabilize the situation in the Gaza Strip. Accusing Fatah leaders in Ramallah of instructing their men to attack Hamas, he said: "These crimes reflect the terrorist mentality of the murderers and of those who give them the instructions from Ramallah."

Denying the allegations, Fatah officials in Ramallah said they were unaware of an "armed resistance" against Hamas.

"Hamas is trying to cover up for its daily crimes against our people in the Gaza Strip," said one official. "Now they are trying to justify their crimes."

The official accused Hamas of raiding the Fatah headquarters in Gaza City late Wednesday night. "Their forces stormed the building and kicked everyone out," he said. "They did not offer an explanation for the raid."

Ihab al-Ghissin, spokesman for the Hamas Ministry of Interior, confirmed that his forces had "occupied" the headquarters. But he said it was a "temporary" measure taken for security reasons.