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Hamas was surprised by the easy and swift defeat of Fatah in the fighting that took place in the Gaza Strip, Hamas representative Ayman Taha said over the weekend.
Taha, who is one of the Hamas officials in the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, said most Fatah militiamen and security officers decided not to fight when they learned that their leaders had fled to the West Bank and Egypt.
"We did not have any intention to win or lose the battle," he explained. "We were only going against a small group that was behind all the trouble and tensions in the Gaza Strip."
Hamas, he added, did not think of a military victory when it waged its campaign. "What happened came also as a surprise to Hamas," he said.
"We in Hamas were surprised not only by the major victory, but by the stunning defeat of Fatah. The Palestinian Authority was also surprised and is still in a state of shock. In fact, the entire world was surprised by the collapse of Fatah."
Taha said there were two reasons for Fatah's defeat. "The Fatah security forces had originally been established on shaky foundations. This is the main reason why they collapsed so quickly. Hamas had long been demanding the reconstruction of these forces on national, not factional, bases. These forces should have worked for the interests of all Palestinians, rather than the faction's alone," he explained.
He said the second reason for Fatah's downfall was because the faction's commanders and leaders had either run away or surrendered to Hamas. "That's why the ordinary members of the security forces knew they had no chance of winning," he said. "They felt that they were fighting a battle for certain leaders who were no longer there."
Taha revealed that most of the Fatah security officers and policemen abandoned their headquarters and bases after learning that their commanders had fled.
"It was not a matter of a military victory for Hamas as much as it was a psychological defeat for Fatah," he argued.
Asked if Hamas was not worried about the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Hamas representative said his movement had considered such a scenario.
"We consider the homeland to be one unified unit," he said. "We took into consideration this possibility and that's why we sent messages to the Palestinian president and the Egyptian brothers, as well as some European countries. We told them that Hamas was not seeking a military victory because we are aware of the consequences and risks."
Taha claimed that Hamas and Fatah were on the verge of signing a cease-fire agreement with the Fatah leadership, which chose to order its men to either surrender or abandon their bases.
"[PA Chairman Mahmoud] Abbas knew about this cease-fire," he said. "We even set a date for sitting together to sign the deal. But what happened later was part of a conspiracy against Hamas. He issued instructions to his security forces to retreat and hand over their bases to Hamas."
Taha also revealed that on the eve of the ostensible cease-fire, Abbas phoned Syria-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and informed him that Fatah was going to surrender and hand over the Gaza Strip to Hamas.
"This phone conversation took place before the major clashes in the Gaza Strip took place," he said. "They [Fatah] withdrew suddenly from all the important locations and security installations, as well as Abbas's office. So Hamas was forced to take over these areas to protect them, not occupy them. There was a conspiracy to create a crisis for Hamas."
The purported conspiracy, he claimed, calls for emptying the Gaza Strip of the PA and leaving Hamas to impose a siege against the Gaza Strip and isolate it from the West Bank.
In response to a question whether Hamas had not fallen into the trap, he said: "No, we didn't fall into a trap. The Palestinian president has plunged himself and the entire Palestinian people into a crisis. We can say that despite the uncertain future, there is a sense of relief in the Gaza Strip because of the calm and stability. The state of anarchy and lawlessness has ended."
Asked about Hamas's plans for the future, Taha stressed that his movement was not seeking to create a separate political entity in the Gaza Strip.
"Hamas is not trying to establish its own rule or state in the Gaza Strip," he said. "We have no plans to establish an Islamic emirate in the Gaza Strip, as some claim."
He said Hamas's approach was that the current dispute with Fatah and Abbas was not political, but legal.
"Hamas considers this whole crisis to be a legal one," he added. "That's why we are saying, 'Let's refer to the law.' The president has dissolved the government, something which he is entitled to do in accordance with the constitution. But according to the same constitution, the deposed government must remain as a transitional government."
The Hamas official scoffed at the decision by the US and the EU to resume financial aid to Abbas and Fatah to strengthen them in the West Bank.
"Mahmoud Abbas and [Fatah strongman] Muhammad Dahlan are false heroes," he said. "It's obvious that the international community is now bidding on these fake leaders. Abbas and Muhammad Dahlan received a lot of money and weapons from the West, but they failed to achieve their goals. The money that is now being poured on them now will go down the drain again because Fatah will also lose in the West Bank the same way they lost in the Gaza Strip. I don't think our people in the West Bank will tolerate them for too long."
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