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Wednesday, May 16, 2007


By Michael Widlanski
JERUSALEM-MAY 16--May 15 is always a "black date" on the Palestinian
calendar, representing the founding of Israel and the Nakba (or
"catastrophe" in Arabic) of the Palestinians. But after yesterday, May 15
may also come to symbolize the date that the Palestinians passed the point
of no-return toward national suicide.

At least 20 Palestinians were murdered yesterday in Gaza (May 15),
according to the most conservative Palestinian accounts, by liquidation
squads of the Hamas Islamic movement that often grabbed gunmen and officials
of the rival Fatah movement and publicly dragged them from cars and executed
them in the streets.

"The only ones who benefit from what is happening now are the Jews.
They are celebrating right now," declared an unidentified Gaza man in the
street who was interviewed yesterday by official Palestinian television
which is controlled by Mahmoud Abbas, the chairman of Fatah and the
Palestinian Authority (PA).

The Hamas movement itself issued statements yesterday and today that
denied that its men had murdered Fatah personnel, saying that the deaths
were part of a "Zionist plot," and its gunmen and racketeers stepped up
their attacks on Israel, launching more than 20 rockets on Israel Tuesday,
wounding more than 30 Israelis.

The joint Hamas-Fatah "national unity government" appears anything but
unified, and it seems only a matter of time before the Palestinian Authority
collapses under its own internal violence or by dint of an Israeli military
strike designed to stop mounting rocket terror attacks on its southern

The Jerusalem Arabic newspaper Al-Quds ran a completely black front page
banner today to symbolize the parlous state of Palestinian affairs.

Hamas squads raided the house of PA Gaza security chief Rashid Abu
Shback on Wednesday, killing six of his bodyguards. Shback and Muhammd
Dahlan are the primary "muscle" of PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah

A day earlier, on Tuesday, Fatah forces fled a Hamas assault near the
Karni terminal east of the Gaza border with Israel after at least nine PA
officers were killed when their training base was attacked by forces from
the "Executive Force" of the Hamas-controlled PA Interior Ministry.

PA television carried anguished public and personal appeals from Abbas
to his Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyyeh, to "think about what you are

It is a measure of what the Palestinians themselves call the situation of
fawda-anarchy-that the Egyptian government, which has been trying to mediate
between Fatah and Hamas, has had to withdraw its officials, after several
were attacked and wounded.

At least 40 people Palestinians have been killed since May 13 in the
latest round of the Fatah-Hamas war, most of them Fatah fighters, and there
are reported to be more than 100 wounded.

The bloodshed was described by official Palestinian radio-Sawt
Felasteen-as a majzara, a "massacre," in Arabic. This is the kind of
terminology usually reserved only for actions by Israel, and it was clear
that both Hamas and Fatah were desperately trying to channel the internecine
fighting and hatred into attacks on Israel, rather than on Arabs.

The rocket attacks on the Israeli town of Sderot and other communities in
the Negev -more than a dozen-continued on Wednesday, seriously wounding an
Israeli woman, as hundred of Israelis asked to be evacuated from the area
that has absorbed three to eight rocket attacks on the average for the last

Meanwhile, the Israeli government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seemed
once again not to be able to decide on a clear course of action beyond
shooting artillery at empty fields in Gaza, and the Russian-born Israeli
businessman, Arkady Gaidemak, spent his own money to evacuate 800 women and
children from the rocket-pocked area.

"Everybody is going crazy, and nobody knows what's going on," added Ziad
Abu-Ziad, a Fatah Party minister in the PA cabinet.

It appeared that the foreign press corps in Gaza was isolated and locked
up in a few locations, afraid to venture outside because of what the
Palestinians call falatan-chaos, and it has been about a month since a
British journalist was kidnapped for ransom by one of the Palestinian gangs
of riflemen that swarm through Gaza.

"Everybody is hoping that the Israelis will come in and liquidate these
maniacs," declared a Gaza man who was interviewed on Israeli Television
Channel 10.

"Anybody who shoots a rocket at us has to pay a price," declared Shaul
Mofaz, the current Israeli transportation minister and the former defense
minister, but he declined, during a radio interview, to say what kind of
action he would support.

Israeli army (IDF) officers have been pressing for a major Israeli land
operation into Gaza for two reasons: to push back the rocketeers out of
shooting range of Israel, while also closing down the smuggling routes from
Sinai and Egypt into Gaza.

In the last weeks, Israeli officers have said privately that the 31 tons
of high-grade explosives which were smuggled into Gaza in the last year have
been supplemented by "hundreds of tons" of other arms, largely financed by

Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication
whose doctorate dealt with the Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former
reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The
Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post. He has also
served as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in
1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public
Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem.

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