On Thursday, June 14, the Palestinian president, Abbas, declared a state of emergency and dismissed the Palestinian coalitional government. Currently, an interim government, mostly Fatah loyalists is in place. Abbas states that he intends to call for elections once the in-fighting ceases. Abbas declared a state of emergency as a result of heavy gun-fights and militant operations between the armed branches of Hamas and Fatah in Gaza.
After a day of fighting, where Hamas fighters seized control of key Fatah security, military, and intelligence compounds, Hamas virtually controls the Gaza Strip. In the past week, violence between the two groups caused over 100 deaths, sparking international outcry over the present humanitarian crisis. In a recent statement, Human Rights Watch criticized both Hamas and Fatah militants for serious violations of international humanitarian law.
Human Rights Watch stated that “both Fatah and Hamas military forces have summarily executed captives, killed people not involved in hostilities, and engaged in gun battles with one another inside and near Palestinian hospitals.” It continued to cite specific incidents where militants violated international humanitarian law; including:
- June 9 (Gaza-Israel border) – Armed members of the Islamic Jihad and Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade used a vehicle with a “TV” insignia to attack Israeli troops.
- June 10 (Gaza City) – Hamas militants captured Muhammad Swairki, a cook for Abbas’s presidential guards, and threw him off a 15 story high-rise.
- June 10 (Gaza City) – Fatah militants captured Muhammad al-Ra’fati, a Hamas supporter, and threw him off a high-rise.
- June 11 (Beit Lahiya) – Hamas fighters entered the home of Jamal Abu al-Jadiyan and then executed him in the street.
- June 11 (Gaza City) – In retaliation to the death of Yasir Bakar, Fatah gunmen began firing mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at Shifa Hospital, drawing Hamas fire from inside the building, killing one Hamas and one Fatah fighter.
- June 11 (Beit Hanun) – At a hospital in Beit Hanun, three family members with ties to Fatah, `Id al-Masri and his sons, Farij and Ibrahim, were killed. The three were being treated at the hospital for injuries sustained earlier.
In addition, there have been reports of other violations of humanitarian law. On June 14, it is reported that after Hamas fighters gained control of the Preventative Security and Gaza’s intelligence headquarters, Hamas executed captured Fatah fighters. Also, many fighters position themselves on rooftops of high-rises, government buildings, and even hospitals. Residents of the buildings are forced to remain inside buildings where many of which have their water and electricity cut-off.
Fighting has even jeopardized the safety of hospital in the territory. On June 11, a hospital in northern Gaza shut down after three people were killed. Then, on June 12, the European Hospital’s roof, in Khan Yunis, was used as a part of an assault, causing the hospital to send home all nonessential staff. A nurse at Al Quds Hospital complains that the hospital has no electricity, water, or blood units, limiting its ability to treat the injured.
Also, Hamas listed several members of Fatah accused of collaborating with Israel. Hamas declared that collaborators are traitors and will be dealt with in due time. For instance, Hamas militants captured and publicly executed Samih Madhun, a top commander of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah’s armed military group. Also, Hamas threatened that Muhammad Dahlan, the head of Fatah’s security in Gaza, will be killed if he returns to Gaza.
The fighting, though concentrated in Gaza, has spilled over into the Fatah dominated West Bank. Fatah militants and supporters targeted Hamas supporters for acts of retaliation. Many of the victims are not involved in the fighting, but attacked based on their membership in Hamas. Businesses owned by Hamas supporters were also targets for violence and acts of retaliation.
On Wednesday, June 13, over a thousand non-violent protesters marched through Gaza City urging an end to the in-fighting. Armed militants fired on the peaceful protesters, killing one protester and injuring 14 others.
Palestinians and the international community are concerned about the implications of the most recent increase violence. Some predict that the Palestinian Authority will split into a Hamas controlled Gaza and a Fatah controlled West Bank. This possibility raises several questions and concerns about the future of a Palestinian state.
For more information please see:
“Abbas sacks Hamas led government” 14 June 2007.
“Hamas hails ‘liberation’ of Gaza” 14 June 2007.
“Coping with the Gaza fighting” 14 June 2007.
“Gaza residents under fire” 14 June 2007.
“Hamas battles for control of Gaza” 13 June 2007.
“Hamas launches new Gaza attacks” 12 June 2007.
“Abbas sacks Palestinian government” 14 June 2007.
“Hamas defies Palestinian President” 14 June 2007.
“Hamas pounds Gaza security bases” 13 June 2007.
“‘There will be no dialogue with Fatah, only the sword and the rifle’” 15 June 2007.
“President Fortress falls in the face of Hamas onslaught” 15 June 2007.
“Fatah militants turn on leader who ‘left them to fight without orders’” 15 June 2007.
“Analysis: the future is bleak for Abbas” 14 June 2007.
“Gaza lurches towards Islamist mini-state” 14 June 2007.
“Hamas seizing control of Gaza Strip” 14 June 2007.
“Abbas orders elite guard to attack Hamas” 14 June 2007.
“It’s Civil War, Palestinians Factions Agree” 13 June 2007.
“Hospitals become battleground in Gaza” 12 June 2007.
“Hamas claims full control of Gaza” 14 June 2007.
“Palestinian fighting ‘will burn all of us,’ official says” 13 June 2007.
“Militants throw rivals off high-rise Gaza buildings” 10 June 2007.
Human Rights Watch: “Gaza: Armed Palestinian Groups Commit Grave Crimes” 13 June 2007.
The Economist: “Conflict in Gaza” 13 June 2007.
Time: “What happens after Hamas wins?” 13 June 2007.