The Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government is planning to rename the sites of former Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip after famous Islamic battles and some former Arab cities inside Israel, as well as Arab capitals. The move, which comes on the eve of the formation of a joint Hamas-Fatah coalition, has drawn criticism from Fatah representatives, who say the outgoing government does not have the authority to make such an important decision. A document obtained by The Jerusalem Post shows that Hamas leaders have made plans to rename at least 20 settlements that were evacuated in August 2005. The document, drafted by Palestinian Authority Agriculture Minister Muhammed al-Agha of Hamas, will soon be brought to the Palestinian Legislative Council for approval.
For Morag - read Baghdad, for Elei Sinai - read Acre
Agha said the decision to rename the former settlements "reflects our love for the liberated land." He said the names he and his staff chose "mostly express Arab dignity and pride." He added that the decision was also an expression of gratitude to all Palestinians who sacrificed their lives to drive Israel out of the Gaza Strip.
Fatah officials in the Gaza Strip, however, said they were opposed to Hamas's initiative, pointing out that the Islamic movement did not have the right to make such a decision without consulting with other Palestinian factions.
"The decision is unacceptable," a senior Fatah operative in the Gaza Strip told the Post.
"The Hamas government is trying to create new facts on the ground as if they are alone out there. Who gave them the right to take such a crucial decision and how come they didn't consult with anyone else?"
Earlier this week, the Ministry of Agriculture fired hundreds of Palestinian guards who were working at the sites of the former settlements.
Fatah spokesmen claimed the move was politically motivated and that Hamas was seeking to replace the dismissed workers with Hamas men.