Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
While numerous analysts are trying to explain the timing of Hamas’ launching a missile 85 kilometers (53 miles) into Israel at a town north of Tel Aviv today, it seems clear that while the missile was directed at Israelis Hamas’ real target was Fatah, the ruling PA political party of Mahmoud Abbas.
Since the end of the Palestinian civil war in 2007 when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip, Fatah and Hamas have been sparing in an ongoing internal war for the hearts and minds of Palestinians. There are many periods when the PA media produces more hate incitement against Hamas, and vice versa, than against Israel. Now is one of those times.
In recent weeks, the enmity and mutual hate incitement between Fatah and Hamas has increased, as many demonstrators are taking to the streets in the Gaza Strip to protest Hamas’ failed administration of Gaza. Hamas has responded by blaming the demonstrations on Fatah and arresting Fatah activists.
10 days ago when Hamas fired missiles towards Tel Aviv, Fatah’s spokesman Osama Al-Qawasmi attributed Hamas missiles to its attempt to distract Gazan’s from their misery of failed Hamas rule: “Launching missiles in order to put down the uprising of the starving is an unacceptable act, and is overt and obvious to all." [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 16, 2019]
The attacks on Hamas by PA- Fatah were intensified on official PA TV and Fatah’s Facebook page both of which presented pictures of injured Palestinian children who they claimed were beaten by Hamas.
A regular columnist in the official PA daily referred to Hamas as “the face of treason… the supporters of Satan.” He called for the residents of Gaza Strip to rise up violently against Hamas: “Gaza, the time has come. Tighten the noose around them. Hang them with the ropes of their treason, for the shame and disgrace is theirs, and this is the end of the traitorous heretics.” [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 20, 2019]
PLO Executive Committee member Tayseer Khaled condemn Hamas’ treatment of the demonstrators: “What we are seeing before us is not security forces, but rather 'Gestapo' gangs.” [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 20, 2019]
Hamas has not stood silently in the face of these verbal attacks by Fatah. Hamas tried to delegitimize Fatah in the eyes of the Palestinian population by releasing fabricated statements of condemnation of last week’s terror attack and attributing them to PA leaders. Hamas claimed that the “spokesman of the PA Security Forces … Adnan Al-Damiri described the operation as ‘criminal’.” [Palestine Now, independent Palestinian news website, March 17, 2019] Al-Damiri immediately attacked Hamas for "the lies and falsehoods that were attributed to him [by Hamas]."
Hamas likewise claimed that PA Police Commissioner Maj. Gen. Hazem Atallah said: ‘We are fearlessly and unashamedly making efforts to find the one who carried out the spiteful operation in Salfit (killing an Israeli father of 12 and a soldier).” [Website of Hamas’ Al-Aqsa Channel, March 20, 2019]
This of course was likewise denied, but the pattern is clear. Given the fact that terror, including murder of civilians, is nearly universally supported by the Palestinian population, by announcing that the PA police are condemning the attack and searching for the terrorist on behalf of the Israeli army, Hamas was clearly trying to blacken the PA’s standing.
It is on the context of this 12 year internal Palestinian war between Fatah and Hamas that Hamas launched the rocket attack on Israel this morning. Demonstrations against Hamas have been continuing throughout the Gaza Strip. There have been numerous cases of brutality by the Hamas police which are being witnessed and reported by Gaza’s residents themselves and there have been injuries.
Given its desperate internal situation with its popularity dropping daily, Hamas decided to launch a rocket on Israel’s population center. This act may be intended to bring a strong military response from Israel. Following the past military conflicts that Hamas has fought against the Israeli army, even though objectively Hamas brought destruction and thousands of deaths upon the Palestinian population, Palestinian public opinion polls showed Hamas had complete popular support because they had fought against Israel. The polls after each of the three Hamas - Israeli army conflicts showed Hamas for more popular than Fatah.
Accordingly, Hamas’ firing the missile creates for it a win-win situation. If Israel does not do a strong reprisal it can show Palestinians that it attacks Israel’s population centers with immunity. Israel has lost its deterrence. They will present Israel as weak in the face of Hamas. If Israel does come back with a strong military response, Hamas is heroic in taking on the Israeli army.
Tragically for Israel, what we’re witnessing is that Hamas and Fatah are fighting each other with the onl weapon that they have that assures popularity amongst the broad spectrum of the Palestinian population- attempting to kill Israelis.
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