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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 May 2007, 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK
Gaza unrest gains own momentum
By Magdi Abdelhadi
BBC Arab affairs analyst

Gunman in Gaza (15 May 2007)
Politicians are having no effect on the gunmen on the ground
Ceasefires between the main rival Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, have come and gone, and the fighting has only become more intense.

The Palestinians have been near the brink of a civil war before, and without outside intervention it is hard to see how they can pull back from the precipice.

Even if they were to stop fighting again, it is unlikely the peace will last for a very long period.

There is deep mistrust and intense hatred between the two groups.

Surreal situation

Nevertheless, the current situation is surreal even by Gazan standards.

[Some] have put the blame squarely on Palestinian leaders, describing the internecine fighting as a self-inflicted tragedy of unparalleled foolishness

The two main partners in a government of supposed national unity are fighting it out on the streets, and ordinary Palestinians are caught in between.

The rapid collapse of successive ceasefires suggests their armed supporters on the ground may no longer be paying attention to orders from the political leadership.

The fighting therefore appears to have developed a momentum of its own.

As in the past, control of the security forces, which are largely loyal to Fatah, appears to have been the trigger for this new bout of fighting.

Recent decisions by the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to appoint his allies in key security positions have angered Hamas.

The Islamist group suspects - not without reason - that Fatah remains opposed to the idea of independent police and security forces with no political affiliations.

Although some Palestinians have sought to link the latest fighting to the suspension of foreign aid, others have put the blame squarely on Palestinian leaders, describing the internecine fighting as a self-inflicted tragedy of unparalleled foolishness.


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