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Palestine National Unity: More delays, more deaths
by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Saturday Feb 3rd, 2007 12:34 PM
Violence continues to rock Gaza as a Palestinian national unity government appears no closer to fruition, writes Erica Silverman
Palestinians witnessed the bloodiest round of inter- factional violence yet between Fatah and Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza this week, claiming the lives of 34 Palestinians and injuring over 100 in just four days. The fatalities were mostly fighters, although several children were caught in the crossfire. Early Tuesday morning Fatah and Hamas agreed to another shaky ceasefire, brokered by the Egyptian diplomatic delegation.

Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, of Hamas, said Fatah and Hamas had "agreed to pull all gunmen from the streets and remove checkpoints." Those suspected of involvement in the killings were to be turned over to prosecutors for investigation.

Simultaneously, the violence was redirected towards Israel on Monday as a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up next to a bakery in Israel's southern resort town of Eilat, killing three Israelis. It was the first attack of its kind since April. Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad praised the "resistance" operation.

The bombing was a joint operation between Islamic Jihad and a new offshoot of Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades -- the military wing of President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement -- called the "Army of Believers", said a masked spokesperson for the military wing of Islamic Jihad at a press conference later that day in Gaza City. Islamic Jihad asserted the attack was carried out in retaliation for Israel's daily military incursions into the Palestinian territories, including mass arrests and targeted assassinations.

by Al-Ahram Weekly (reposted)
Saturday Feb 3rd, 2007 12:35 PM
But will it hold? Dina Ezzat in Cairo and Khaled Amayreh in Gaza examine the prospects for the latest Palestinian ceasefire

A million and a half Gazans are reeling after a week of ferocious infighting between Hamas and Fatah left more than 32 people dead and many more injured, bloody clashes that have pushed Palestinians one step closer to the brink of civil war.

On Monday Egyptian mediators, working around-the-clock, succeeded in getting officials from the two warring parties to end the fighting and agree on measures to prevent further outbreaks of violence. The Egyptian-brokered agreement between Fatah and Hamas was reached after a meeting in Gaza between Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and Rawhi Fattuh, an emissary of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The agreement stipulates an immediate end to armed clashes, the removal of all armed men from the streets, the dismantling of roadblocks and the release of abductees.

Despite general compliance by both sides sporadic shooting could still be heard in some parts of the Gaza Strip, especially the north. The most serious violation of the ceasefire occurred in Khan Younis on Tuesday when gunmen, believed to be members of the Preventive Security Force (PSF), assassinated a member of Hamas's military wing, the Izziddin Al-Qassam Brigades. The assassination occurred shortly after a PSF officer died of injuries sustained in earlier fighting with Hamas forces.

Despite the gravity of the incident the two sides released hostages and have agreed on measures to prevent violence spreading to the West Bank, where Fatah gunmen have abducted Hamas officials. Most, if not all, of the abductees were subsequently released.

While there was hope yesterday that the truce would hold, Egyptian officials are under no illusions about the challenges ahead. Those close to the inter-Palestinian mediation file point to the complex internal and regional factors affecting Palestinian decision-making on both sides.


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