Fatah Eyeing Terrorist to Lead Gaza Return

April 20, 2012  

Five years after Hamas seized Gaza from Fatah in a violent putsch the Fatah central committee is laying the groundwork to replace Hamas in the Palestinian Authority’s 2012 elections.

According the to Hebrew-language daily Maariv, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah’s central committee will gather in Ramallah on Saturday to discuss ways to wrest Gaza from Hamas.

The bloody 2007 putsch resulted in a schism in the PA and left Abbas’ Fatah faction with little influence in the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave.

Since the Hamas takeover, internal disputes combined with fears of retaliation and harassment by Hamas, have rendered Fatah activity in Gaza almost non-existent. Over the past five years, Fatah members in Gaza have been kidnapped, tortured, intentionally maimed, and sometimes murdered by Hamas.

One leading suggestion, likely with the support of Abbas and Fatah’s senior leadership, is to replace the Fatah leadership in Gaza. In theory, doing so would infuse new blood into Fatah’s Gaza organization.

It would also allow popular Fatah figures in Gaza who can make a political impact to be appointed. A central figure in Fatah’s plans to restructure in Gaza is Yazid Hawihi, the favorite to replace Abdullah Abu Samhadana as the Fatah chairman in Gaza.

Hawihi, 50, is from Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza. Six months ago he was released from an Israeli jail where he had served five years after being convicted of terrorism related charges.

The restructuring comes as Fatah makes plans for the 2012 elections Abbas and Hamas politburo-chief-in-exile Khaled Mashaal agreed to in Qatar earlier this year.

Under the agreement Abbas will serve as PA prime minister in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. However, the Hamas leadership in Gaza – headed by Ismail Hainyeh and Mahmoud al-Zahar – have actively sought to sandbag the Abbas-Mashaal deal.

At a meeting in Cairo, Haniyeh and al-Zahar demanded new conditions, beyond what the Qatar deal called for, that would not only ensure they retained absolute control of Gaza after the elections, but would gain significant influence in Judea and Samaria as well.

However, Fatah says Hamas has lost ground in Gaza due to Haniyeh and al-Zahar’s refusal to go through with the Qatar deal.

“The public understands that Hamas dared not pursue reconciliation with us, especially after Abbas met with the Hamas leadership and agreed to steps for reconciliation,” a senior Fatah official told Maariv.

“Disagreements between Hamas leaders are preventing the implementation of the Qatar agreement. As a result, Fatah leaders in Ramallah plan to restore the power of the PA in Gaza..

According to the official Abbas began quietly restructuring Fatah’s leadership in Gaza two months ago, after the Fatah Revolutionary Council approved the appointment of Amal Hamad, a Gaza resident to the Fatah Central Committee.

The move was intended to demonstrate that Fatah members in Gaza were not cut off from the organization’s senior leadership, and would have a voice in the organization.

However, Abbas plans for reform are not simply achieved and face two significant obstacles. On the one hand, Haniyeh and al-Zahar will not allow significant changes on the ground in Gaza that favor Fatah.

The other is Mohammed Dahlan, the former Fatah strongman in Gaza. Although Dahlan was ousted from Gaza by Hamas and faces legal troubles with Abbas’ faction in Ramallah, he enjoys a high degree of popularity not only in Gaza – but in Washington as well.

However, the Fatah official claimed “The issue of Dahlan is over. There is no Dahlan group today. He is not a member of Fatah and has no support.”

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