Tensions continue to escalate between Palestinian rival movements Fatah and Hamas ahead of the latter’s 54th anniversary on January 7.
Fatah leadership has insisted on organizing an assembly to mark the occasion, even though Hamas — which has inconsistently allowed Fatah to organize anniversary rallies in the past — has denied the group permission to assemble this year in Gaza, an area under Hamas control since 2007.
Hamas’ stance on the issue reflects the diminishing potential for reconciliation between the groups, a process that Egypt has attempted to broker throughout 2018 but one which has not yielded in any major breakthroughs.
Arrests of Fatah leaders, as a warning to those who might be inclined to participate in the anniversary assembly, are not out of the question, a Hamas source told Mada Masr.
“[Fatah] has arrested and fought with our followers in the West Bank. It shall receive the same treatment in Gaza,” the source added.
Hamas leadership has also threatened “severe consequences” if the event is covered by local media, the source reported, adding that journalists and camerapeople are “responsible for themselves and their own equipment” if they approach the Kateeba area in which the event is being held.
In addition, security forces have been instructed to intervene if people gathered begin chanting against Hamas, according to the source.
On Fatah’s part, a Palestinian Authority source told Mada Masr that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has sent mid-tier leaders to oversee the database update of administrative employees in Gaza, numbers for which range between 55,000 and 60,000. The leaders have been tasked with identifying which employees are engaging politically or working with other Palestinian factions, such as Islamic Jihad or Hamas, and firing them.
Employees that do not support the assembly will also be forced into retirement or sacked, while those who comply with orders and attend the rally will receive better salaries, the source added, without specifying details.
Meanwhile, Hamas has allowed an anniversary assembly organized by a Fatah offshoot led by Mohamed Dahlan, the former Fatah leader in Gaza before the Hamas’ take-over of the strip in 2007. Dahlan, whose tensions with Fatah were marked by accusations of spying for Israel and financial corruption, led to his expulsion from the original group in 2011. This was followed by his rapprochement with Hamas, whose source told Mada Masr that the Gaza leadership is ready to grant Dahlan more power if his faction shares more information about Abbas’ followers, especially rising mid-tier Fatah leadership within the strip.
Last month, increasing tensions between the Palestinian movements were marked by Abbas’ announcement of his intention to dissolve the Hamas-dominated Legislative Council, a move that would transfer legislative power to the PA-controlled Central Committee.
Hamas has long accused the PA of subjecting Gazans to punitive measures through the sanctions that the PA imposed on the strip in 2007, which include decreasing electricity subsidies, reducing employee salaries and restricting the entry of medicine into Gaza.