'PA clashes jeopardize cease-fire'

Fatah-Hamas clashes could lead to disintegration of cease-fire and maybe civil war.

karni crossing 298 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
karni crossing 298 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Defense officials expressed extreme concern over the growing unrest in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, warning that internal Palestinian clashes could lead to the disintegration of the already unstable cease-fire and a possible Palestinian civil war. On Wednesday, gunmen affiliated with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah Party gunned down a judge from the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis. A day earlier, three children of one of Abbas's top intelligence officials, Baha Ba'lousheh, were killed in a drive-by shooting in Gaza City. Last week, gunmen tried killing Palestinian Interior Minister Said Siam. Defense officials at the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv voiced concern that the escalating violence and unrest in Gaza would spread to the West Bank and trigger terror groups to renew Kassam rocket attacks aimed at the western Negev. The violence in Gaza has led to political unrest, officials said, to the extent that the Palestinians might be on the brink of a civil war that could easily boil over into Israel in the form of a new wave of terror attacks. This has already begun to happen. On Tuesday, five Kassam rockets were fired at Israel after days of relative quiet during which the cease-fire appeared to be holding. On Wednesday night IDF troops shot and killed a Palestinian spotted carrying a gun and several grenades along the security fence near the Karni Crossing into the Gaza Strip. "With the situation the way it is, there is no way the cease-fire being can be implemented in the West Bank," said one official who called on the international world to intervene in the Gaza Strip and attempt to bring calm to the Palestinian territory. According to defense officials, the current internal battles inside the Gaza Strip proved once again that Abbas was weak and incapable of enforcing order. Israeli officials have been holding meetings with members of Fatah to try to evaluate the severity of the situation. Siam is a member of Hamas and as interior minister is responsible for most of the Palestinian security forces. Ba'lousheh is a close associate of Abbas and a colonel in the Palestinian General Intelligence - a central security apparatus affiliated with Abbas's Presidential Guard. Defense officials said the fighting could be connected to "power struggles" concerning control over the Palestinian security branches, one of the main issues that remained in disagreement following the establishment of the Hamas government in the beginning of the year. Despite the cease-fire, officials said Hamas was continuing to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip despite increased Egyptian efforts to stop the smuggling from the Sinai.