Erdogan's Gaza trip fuels fire between Hamas, Fatah
4 November 2012 / TODAY'S ZAMAN, ANKARA
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently announced plans to visit
the Gaza Strip in the near future, has raised the tensions between two rival
Palestinian groups, Hamas and Fatah, which have been at odds in recent
Erdogan recently told journalists on a plane en route to Ankara from Berlin
that he has plans to visit Gaza soon and that authorities are having talks
with officials in Gaza to arrange the trip. He even added that he had
extended an invitation to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian
Authority that controls the Israel-occupied West Bank and is the main
political rival to Hamas, to visit Gaza together. “He was warm to the
suggestion,” Erdogan said.
However, the office of Fatah, the party headed by Abbas, reacted to
Erdogan's words on Saturday. A spokesman for Abbas, Yasser Abid Rabbo, said
that is was unacceptable that a country would be invited to its own lands.
Abbas himself also reacted to a recent visit by the emir of Qatar to the
Gaza Strip, the first such visit by a head of state since Hamas seized
control of the coastal strip from Fatah five years ago. “If countries want
to assist Gaza, then they should do so by applying to legal authorities,”
Abbas said in criticism of the visit.
Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and his wife Sheikha Mozah
crossed over into
Gaza from Egypt late last month at the head of a large delegation, and were
given a hero's welcome by Hamas' prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and
an honor guard.
The landmark visit by the emir handed the ruling Hamas -- branded terrorists
by the West and isolated by an Israeli blockade -- its biggest diplomatic
victory since taking power. It was also a strong sign of the rising power of
oil-rich Qatar and the mounting influence of Hamas' parent movement, the
Muslim Brotherhood, since last year's Arab Spring uprisings.
While Gaza celebrated the emir's arrival, the rival Palestinian government
of Abbas in the West Bank was less enthusiastic.
According to The New York Times, Erdogan's plan to visit Gaza would draw
Turkey away from the Palestinian government in the West Bank, as well as
from Israel and the West, which cooperate with the Abbas government. The
visit would also strengthen the legitimacy of Hamas, the newspaper reported.
Analysts also argue that Erdogan's visit would be a slap in the face of the
Abbas administration, which has already lost support from the Arab world.
Khaled Meshal, the political chief of Hamas, stood out as the most applauded
foreign guest at a historic congress of the ruling Justice and Development
Party (AK Party) last September in the Turkish capital, Ankara, receiving a
salute from Prime Minister Erdogan.
Hamas and Fatah began rounding up each other's supporters when Hamas
violently seized control of Gaza from Fatah in 2007. Abbas, concerned about
losing the remainder of the land his party controlled in the West Bank,
began cracking down on Hamas activists, institutions and funding. About 900
Hamas activists are currently jailed in the West Bank, while more than 200
Fatah supporters in Gaza have to report daily to Hamas offices and spend
long hours there in an improvised form of detention, for lack of prison