Fatah and Hamas — A decade of strained ties

A Palestinian man waves the flags of Egypt and Palestine as people gather in Gaza City to celebrate after rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah reached an agreement on ending a decade-long split following talks mediated by Egypt on Thursday, October 12, 2017. (AFP / MOHAMMED ABED)
Updated 12 October 2017
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Fatah and Hamas — A decade of strained ties

GAZA CITY: The Hamas-Fatah split, which has at times erupted into deadly conflict, has seen rival administrations run by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and by President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Here is a look back at the history of the dispute:
• In 2006, the leaders of Hamas take part in elections to the Palestinian Parliament for the first time, sweeping to a landslide victory over Fatah, which had dominated it since it was established.
A unity government is installed with Hamas taking key posts but it is dogged by International demands, rejected by the hard-liners, that they renounce violence and recognize Israel and past peace deals.
• In early 2007, simmering tensions between the rival factions erupt into bloody clashes in Gaza.
After a week of violence in June, Abbas dismisses the unity government and declares a state of emergency in the territory.
But Hamas fighters rout pro-Abbas forces and take control, a move the president calls a coup.
• In April 2011, Fatah and Hamas say they have reached an understanding to create an interim government to prepare for elections, but implementation is repeatedly delayed.
In January 2012, the rivals strike a prisoner exchange agreement. The following month, they agree that Abbas should lead an interim government, but the deal is disputed within Hamas and never implemented.
• In April 2014, the Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas finally agree on a unity government.
It is sworn in on June 2 but fails to exercise authority over Gaza where Abbas accuses Hamas of setting up a parallel administration.
In July-August 2014, the factions put up a united front after Israel launches a 50-day blitz against Gaza in response to rocket fire, but the unity government falls apart months later.
• In May 2017, Hamas makes a major revision to its founding charter, easing its stance on Israel after having long called for its destruction.
The group says 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 in the Six-Day War of 1967.
The group — which remains blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the US and the EU as well as Israel — is seen as seeking to ease its isolation without marginalizing hard-liners in its ranks.
• Tensions persist over the formation by Hamas of an “administrative committee” in Gaza which is seen as a rival Palestinian government.
Abbas puts the squeeze on Hamas including by cutting payments for electricity supplies to the territory.
An Egyptian-led reconciliation push receives a major boost when Hamas agrees on Sept. 17 to dissolve the committee and cede civil power, saying it is ready for talks on a new unity government and elections.
• In early October, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visits Gaza for the first time since 2015.
His ministers take formal control of government departments in the territory.
• On Oct. 10, the two factions open detailed reconciliation talks mediated by Egypt in Cairo.
On Oct. 12, the two sides announce they have reached a deal.
• Fatah says Abbas will visit Gaza within a month and sanctions he had imposed on the territory will soon be lifted.
Some 3,000 Palestinian Authority police officers are to redeploy to Gaza, a member of the negotiating team says.
But the two sides remain sharply at odds over the future of Hamas’s 25,000-strong armed wing, which the Gaza leaders say is non-negotiable.


Syrian regime’s killing spree continues in largest opposition holdout

A member of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham group watches as a convoy of busses gets ready to enter the towns of Fuaa and Kefraya to evacuate their residents on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 19 July 2018
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Syrian regime’s killing spree continues in largest opposition holdout

  • Israel has occupied the Golan Heights since 1967, and a cease-fire deal was reached in 1974
  • The regime offensive has displaced more than 230,000 people, many of them on the run in the open

BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces determined to retake the largest opposition holdout in the country’s southwest unleashed an intense bombing campaign, killing at least a dozen people and wounding over 100 in a densely populated town, activists and rescuers said on Wednesday.
The aerial bombardment of the town of Nawa came after talks to cede the town failed on Tuesday, triggering the heavy bombardment.
Separately, some 7,000 civilians were expected to be evacuated from two pro-regime villages in northwestern Syria as part of a negotiated deal with insurgents who have besieged them for three years.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “frenzied” overnight bombing in Nawa and the town’s surroundings continued into Wednesday, with at least 350 missiles launched. The Observatory said at least 12 people were killed as rescuers struggled to get to the casualties.
Khaled Solh, head of the local Syria Civil Defense known as White Helmets, said they have documented 14 people killed while Nawa’s only hospital was bombed and rendered non-operational on late Tuesday. Only one ambulance was able to get to the town and civilians relied on their cars to bring out at least 150 wounded. He said one of the last orthopedists in the town was killed in the strikes.
The regime has stepped up its military offensive on the remaining opposition pockets in the southwestern region, which includes the Daraa and Quneitra provinces that straddle the border with Jordan and the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. In recent days, Syrian forces have turned to the last opposition pockets near the frontier with Israel.
Images from across the frontier in the Israel-occupied Golan Heights showed large plumes of smoke rising over the Nawa area, as the bombing continued on Wednesday.
Hundreds of civilians were seen taking cover in shelters along the frontier, apparently seeking safety in the de-militarized zone between the two countries. Israel has occupied the Golan Heights since 1967, and a cease-fire deal was reached in 1974.
In less than a month, regime forces backed by Russian air power have been able to seize control of most of southwestern Daraa province, including the provincial capital of the same name. The city of Daraa was the cradle of the uprising against Bashar Assad more than seven years ago.
Alongside the military offensive, the government has struck “reconciliation” deals, essentially a negotiated capitulation in a number of villages that have been in rebel hands for years, to restore government control there.
Talks to hand over Nawa, one of the most densely populated towns in Daraa province, have been ongoing for a couple of days. That has encouraged displaced civilians to return to Nawa, said a local activist who goes by the name Selma Mohammed.
But the talks faltered, triggering the overnight onslaught and a new wave of displacement, with hundreds leaving the town again.
On Wednesday, the bombing focused on towns and villages surrounding Nawa, making the road in and out of town deadly, Mohammed said.
The Observatory said warplanes and ground forces have also targeted the southern tip of the region, which is held by militants affiliated with Daesh.
The regime offensive has displaced more than 230,000 people, many of them on the run in the open. Jordan said it will not take in new refugees and Israeli soldiers have shooed away dozens of protesters who had approached the frontier Tuesday, demanding protection.
Meanwhile, about 7,000 Syrians were expected to be evacuated from two pro-regime villages in northwestern Syria, ending a three-year siege by insurgents who control the surrounding area. Dozens of buses arrived in the Foua and Kfraya villages to transport the evacuees on Wednesday, Syrian state media said.
Evacuation deals have been criticized by the UN as forced displacement. A negotiated deal to evacuate Foua and Kfraya villagers earlier this year faltered after the evacuation of only 40 people from a third village. The evacuees’ first stop is the regime-controlled city of Aleppo.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that Russian and Syrian authorities had set up a refugee center in Syria to help refugees return home from abroad.