Israel has considered giving military support to Fatah in its power struggle with Hamas, the Daily Telegraph reported on its Web site Saturday morning. According to the report, even though Fatah was closely connected to Palestinian terorists with a long record of attacks against Israel, Israel was beginning to embrace the movement as a means of foiling Hamas. The latest week of Palestinian infighting ended with nearly 50 fatalities, and in the last few days, IAF helicopters and jets have carried out multiple attacks on Hamas targets, especially sites connected with the manufacturing or launching of Kassam rockets. Internecine violence in Gaza was at its highest since the March signing of the Mecca unity accords, which established a Palestinian Authority unity government.
Analysis: IDF's options in Gaza
"We believe that time is working against the moderates," a member of the Israeli cabinet was quoted by the Telegrpah as saying Friday. "Time is of the essence when it comes to the influence of Hamas in the Gaza Strip - to sit and do nothing, not even while we're being attacked but afterward, is something we cannot afford."
"The bottom line of the confrontations is, you can see most of the casualties are from Fatah," a military source said. Options for Israel include air strikes, limited ground operations, or a large-scale operation that could take "months."
Assistance to Fatah-loyal security services in Gaza is not new. Trainers from the UN and Western nations have worked closely with Fatah guards at Gaza's only cargo terminal at the Karni crossing, which came under assault from Hamas forces on Wednesday.
Also this week, 500 policemen who had been training in Egypt were permitted to return through the Rafah pedestrian crossing into Gaza, a procedure requiring the permission of Israeli officials.
But there were fears that Israeli interference to bolster Fatah could backfire. "Practically, what they do strengthens Hamas, because they are attacking Hamas and they are the occupying force," said the Palestinian information minister, Mustafa Barghouti. "This makes Hamas more popular on the Palestinian street," he said.