Fatah and Hamas: a decade of strained relations

A Palestinian woman shouts slogans during demonstration supporting a new attempt to reconcile the militant Islamist movement Hamas and its Fatah rivals on April 22, 2014, in Gaza City. (AFP)
Updated 30 September 2017
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Fatah and Hamas: a decade of strained relations

GAZA CITY: Ties between Palestinian rivals Fatah, a secular party, and the Islamist Hamas have been tense for a decade, at times erupting into deadly conflict.
Hamas controls the narrow Mediterranean Gaza enclave of the Palestinian territories, while Fatah is based in larger landlocked West Bank.
With Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah due in the Gaza Strip on Monday, here is a look at the relationship between the groups.
Hamas takes part for the first time in 2006 in legislative elections for the Palestinian National Authority and beats out Fatah, which has been in control for 10 years.
A unity government is installed with Hamas taking key posts.
Simmering tensions between the two erupt into bloody clashes early 2007.
After a week of violence in Gaza in June, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas fires the unity government and declares a state of emergency in the territory.
But Hamas routs forces loyal to Fatah and takes control of the strip, a move Abbas calls a coup.
In April 2011, Fatah and Hamas say they have reached an understanding to create an interim government of independents to prepare for elections.
Implementation of the deal is repeatedly delayed, however.
The rivals strike a prisoner-exchange accord in January 2012. The following month they agree that Abbas should lead an interim government, but the decision is disputed within Hamas and never applied.
In April 2014, the Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas finally agree on a unity government.
It is sworn in on June 2 but fails to exercise authority over Gaza where Abbas charges Hamas has set up a parallel administration to his own internationally recognized government.
In July-August 2014, though, the parties show a united response after Israel launches a 50-day blitz against Gaza in response to rocket fire.
The unity government falls apart months later.
In a stark revision of its founding charter, Hamas eases its stance on Israel in May 2017, after having long called for its destruction.
The Islamist group also pronounces that its struggle is not against Jews but against Israel as an occupier, and accepts the idea of a Palestinian state in territories occupied by Israel.
Hamas — considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union — is seen as seeking to ease its international isolation while not marginalizing hard-liners within its ranks.
However, tensions remain between the rivals over the creation by Hamas months earlier of an “administrative committee” seen as a rival Palestinian government.
Abbas puts the squeeze on Hamas including by cutting electricity supplies to Gaza.
Under pressure, Hamas agrees on September 17 to the dissolution of the committee and says it is ready for talks on a new unity government and elections.
It calls on the Palestinian Authority government “to come to Gaza to exercise its functions and carry out its duties immediately.”


Gutted Syrian town begins modest reconstruction, street by street

Updated 28 min 37 sec ago
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Gutted Syrian town begins modest reconstruction, street by street

  • Mountains of rubble still block many of the main thoroughfares in Harasta, a town outside Damascus
  • After a blistering weeks-long assault, Syria’s government recaptured it in March

HARASTA, Syria: Khaled’s delicate hands were accustomed to cutting and styling hair in his Syrian hometown Harasta. Now, they’re hauling concrete and sweeping floors to repair homes ravaged by years of fighting.
Mountains of rubble still block many of the main thoroughfares in Harasta, a town outside Damascus held for nearly five years by armed rebels.
After a blistering weeks-long assault, Syria’s government recaptured it in March, and displaced families have been trickling back to check if their homes survived.
Khaled, 35, watches them cross a security checkpoint and approaches to pitch his services: knocking down walls, clearing rubble, and sweeping up debris.
“I used to be a barber, but now I’m a laborer. I wait for families to enter and offer them my services in cleaning and restoration,” he says.
Khaled fled Harasta in 2012 to the nearby town of Al-Tal, where he still lives with his family. Every day, the father of three commutes to Harasta to find work.
His own house still stands, but he cannot return yet: temporary security measures dictate that people who live outside the town cannot stay past nightfall.
“I work with three other people. We use hammers, brooms, and buckets of water. Work is on and off,” he says.
“Clients pay us whatever they can afford.”
Harasta lies in Eastern Ghouta, recaptured this spring by Syrian troops with a deal that saw thousands of rebels and civilians bussed to opposition territory elsewhere.
Others, like 45-year-old Hassan, chose not to leave.
The former petrol station worker remained in Harasta throughout the rebel reign and decided to stay in its aftermath, too.
Hassan now works with Khaled, transporting rocks and other materials in his pick-up truck to construction sites.
“This is the only work in Harasta that pays right now,” says Hassan, wearing a dirty wool sweater despite the heat.
Harasta was once home to 250,000 people, most of them Syrians from elsewhere in the country who worked in the capital but sought cheap rent.
Now, just 15,000 people remain, town officials estimate, unable to leave until security forces clear their names.
With the use of personal cars banned, boys get around on bicycles while women and toddlers shuffle along on foot.
Many of Harasta’s large residential blocks or industrial complexes have been pulverized by strikes, artillery, and mortars.
They stand like massive grey honeycombs overlooking dusty streets still stripped of signs of life, months after fighting has stopped.
Mohammad Naaman, 50, was terrified his home would be among those gutted by fighting — and can hardly contain himself when he finds it still standing.
“I was shocked to see most buildings collapsed. It’s true my house is devastated compared to before, but I’m happy it’s still there at all,” says Naaman.
He, too, fled to Al-Tal in 2012 and still lives there.
The doors and windows of his Harasta home have been blown out and cracks run up the walls, threatening collapse.
But in the living room, a layer of dust blankets plastic flowers still standing in their vases.
“Whatever happens, it’s still my house, and my house is so dear to me,” Naaman says.
Like his neighbors, Naaman’s first step was removing the rubble and debris from his home, dumping them into the main street nearby according to instructions by local authorities.
Vehicles provided by the public works ministry transport the rubble to a local dump, separating metal out so that concrete can be turned back to cement and reused.
“We removed 110,000 cubic meters of rubble from the streets, but there’s still more than 600,000 to go,” says Adnan Wezze, who heads the town council running Harasta since the regime’s recapture.
As he speaks, a demolition digger works on a two-story building. Its metal arm reaches up to the roof and picks off slabs of concrete precariously perched there.
Authorities are working fast to demolish buildings “at risk of collapse, because they present a public safety threat,” says Wezze.
Many urban hubs across Syria, particularly around Damascus, have been hard-hit by hostilities, and President Bashar Assad said this month rebuilding would be his “top priority.”
But Law 10, a recent decree which allows for the expropriation of property to redevelop an area, sparked fears that millions of displaced Syrians would not get the opportunity to make a claim to their land.
Wezze insists that Harasta’s modest efforts were fair.
“We only demolish after getting permission from the owners,” he says.
If they are not present, Wezze adds, “their rights are still protected. We’ve requested proof of property even before areas are designated as development projects.”
“No resident of Harasta will lose his rights — whether they’re here or in exile.”