Clashes between the two main Palestinian forces continued on Friday as Hamas accused Fatah of attempting to assassinate the Palestinian prime minister. Meanwhile, President Mahmoud Abbas, who recently said he may call for early elections in order to oust Hamas from the government, is close to revealing his plan for addressing the political standstill between the two groups.
Even if Abbas is successful in removing Hamas from the Palestinian government—a development that would please the West and Israel—Hamas could treat the action as a coup and the conflict with Fatah could develop into a Palestinian civil war.
New York Times:
Fatah denied the accusation, which raised the stakes in the increasingly bitter confrontation. Hamas, a radical Islamic movement that is considered a terrorist group by Israel and the West, heads the Palestinian government, while Fatah, a secular faction, retains hold of the presidency and controls some branches of the security forces.
Hamas staged rallies in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank today to mark the 19th anniversary of its founding, and its supporters clashed with Palestinian security forces outside a mosque in Ramallah in the West Bank. More than 30 Palestinians were injured. The skirmishes today came on the eve of a major address by the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is expected to spell out plans on Saturday to bring months of political deadlock between Hamas and Fatah to an end. Mr. Abbas, who is from Fatah, has not tipped his hand, but in such a volatile atmosphere, he may be more inclined to seek options that are meant reduce tensions.
Today’s events were largely an extension of a strange episode on Thursday, when Israel temporarily barred Mr. Haniya from returning to the Gaza Strip after a tour of the Middle East. Israel said he was carrying tens of millions of dollars in cash in his luggage, and that the money could be used to finance terrorist attacks, though Israel provided no evidence of those claims. As Mr. Haniya approached the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, Israel ordered the crossing closed.
The seven-hour standoff that ensued quickly turned into an internal Palestinian battle. Hamas gunmen stormed the border terminal on the Palestinian side of the border at Rafah to support Mr. Haniya, who was stranded on the Egyptian side.
The Hamas gunmen first clashed with the Palestinian security forces at the crossing, who are loyal to Mr. Abbas. Later, they battled Egyptian security forces on the other side of the frontier.