Hamas attacks aimed as diversion from internal issues

Analysis: Mortar attacks are aimed at dragging Israel into a military offensive that is needed by Hamas to rally the Palestinian public behind it.

March 19, 2011 20:30
2 minute read.
Palestinians in Ramallah rallying for unity

Palestinians in Ramallah rallying for unity 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)

The mortar attacks on Israel over the weekend were designed to divert attention from Hamas’s growing problems inside the Gaza Strip. The Hamas leadership has been under heavy pressure as a result of mass demonstrations in the Gaza Strip demanding an end to the Hamas-Fatah dispute.

After failing to prevent the protests, Hamas authorities began cracking down on the organizers, political foes and journalists.

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Hamas believes that the demonstrations are being organized by Fatah as part of an attempt to undermine the Islamist movement.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum on Saturday accused Fatah and its allies of exploiting the calls for Palestinian unity to destabilize the situation in the Gaza Strip.

The first sign of Hamas’s increased nervousness was evident last week when dozens of the movement’s undercover police officers attacked thousands of demonstrators who were participating in a Facebook- initiated rally to demand Palestinian unity.

At least 50 demonstrators were injured, including eight local journalists.

On Saturday, Hamas again targeted journalists, raiding press offices and confiscating cameras, laptops and other equipment.

Sources in Gaza City said the Hamas policemen stormed the offices of CNN, Reuters and a Japanese TV station.

Three Palestinian journalists were beaten with clubs, the sources said. They identified the three as Sami Abu Salem, Manal Hasan and Munzer al-Sharafi.

The Hamas crackdown on journalists is seen as an attempt to prevent further coverage of daily protests throughout the Gaza Strip.

Hamas’s actions indicate that the movement, which has been controlling the Gaza Strip since 2007, is afraid that the current wave of popular uprisings sweeping the Arab world will hit the Strip.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s announcement last week that he was prepared to visit the Gaza Strip for reconciliation talks with Hamas leaders is another source of concern for the movement.

Hamas fears that Abbas’s visit to the Gaza Strip would drive tens of thousands of Palestinians to take to the streets to greet him and demand an end to the Hamas-Fatah power struggle.

Ironically, an IDF operation in the Gaza Strip will undoubtedly ease the internal pressure on Hamas. The mortar attacks are aimed at dragging Israel into a military offensive that is needed by Hamas to divert attention from its problems and rally the Palestinian public behind it.

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