How Hamas' Military Wing Threatens Reconciliation With Fatah
Is Another Gaza Conflict Brewing?
A few days ago, Hamas, Fatah, and 11 other Palestinian factions met for talks in Cairo to finalize a national political reconciliation process that would reunite the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The territories have been ruled separately since Hamas took over Gaza from Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA) by force of arms in 2007.
The key sticking point in the talks was monopoly over the use of force. Fatah leader and PA President Mahmoud Abbas insists that there can be only “one state, one government, one gun,” but Hamas seeks to maintain its armed military and terrorist wing even as it is set to hand over the reins of power in Gaza to Fatah and the PA this Friday, December 1. Abbas has explicitly rejected Hamas following the so-called Hezbollah model, in which a militant party participates in politics and joins the government but maintains a heavily armed and independent militia. Yet clearly, Hamas prefers this setup.
By maintaining its armed wing, Hamas jeopardizes the success of the reconciliation deal, making it highly unlikely that the status quo will change come Friday’s deadline. Hamas will only continue to incite violence in the region, and may ultimately bring Gaza closer to the next wave of violence.
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
Hamas’s rhetoric and actions over the past few months both demonstrate the group’s continued commitment to what it calls “armed resistance.” Consider, for example, its continuing construction of attack tunnels dug from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Many of these tunnels were destroyed by Israel after the most recent escalations of 2014, but Hamas remains committed to rebuilding its underground network both internally, within the Gaza Strip, and under the Egyptian and Israeli borders (the former for smuggling, the latter to carry out attacks). According to Israeli officials in 2016, Hamas digs more than six miles of tunnels towards Israel each month, often underneath civilian infrastructure.
On June 1, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) uncovered a tunnelRead the full article on ForeignAffairs.com