With PA's Image In Tatters, Hard To Visualise A Future For Gaza Sans Hamas

(MENAFN- IANS) New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) Gaza has been governed by Hamas since 2007, when the political arm of the militant outfit took charge of the coastal strip.

The administration from 2007 to February 2017 was headed by Ismail Haniyeh, who now heads Hamas's political bureau based out of Qatar (he's now believed to be in Iran). Following his departure, Haniyeh was replaced by Yahya Sinwar as the leader of the Gaza administration.

On January 25, 2006, Haniyeh was nominated as the prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority (PA) after Hamas won the legislative election. This event led to a Palestinian national unity government with Fatah, then as now headed by Mahmoud Abbas. Fatah had collapsed after a violent conflict between Hamas and Fatah.

Hamas eventually took control of the Gaza strip on June 14, 2007.

Although the Ramallah-based PA's authority was supposed to extend over both Gaza and West Bank, it has been limited only to the latter. Both administrations, Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, regard themselves as the legitimate PA government.

As matters have come to develop, the PA in the West Bank headed by Abbas is not seen as a credible authority by Palestinians, who consider Hamas to be their voice. In fact, pollsters believe that if an election was held today, Hamas will sweep it.

Internationally, though, Fatah, which the Palestinians see as weak and subservient to the Israelis, and not Hamas, is recognised as the legitimate government of the region. India, too, backs Abbas.

Egypt had mediated a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas in 2011. The terms of the agreement were supposed to be implemented by May 2012 by means of joint elections.

However, in January 2012, Palestinian sources were quoted as saying that the May joint elections "would not be possible".

In February 2012, the Hamas-Fatah Doha agreement was inked, under which a unified government was sworn in on June 2, 2014.

This government was expected to function in Gaza and West Bank and prepare for national elections which did not happen due to disagreements between the two entities. With the failure of this combination of government, PA continued to prevail in the West Bank while Hamas took control of the Gaza strip.

However, the Hamas-Fatah conflict began simmering after Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006.

Israel, along with the US, UN, European Union and Russia, demanded that the new Hamas government accept all previous agreements, recognise Israel's right to exist, and renounce violence. But when Hamas refused, the group severely hacked aid to the PA.

By December 2006, a massive conflict erupted in Gaza when Hamas tried to replace the Palestinian police as the primary authority in Gaza strip.

On February 8, 2007 Saudi Arabia-sponsored negotiations in Mecca concluded in an agreement on a unified Palestinian government between Hamas and Fatah.

By March 2007, the Palestinian Legislative Council approved the formation of a national unity government with a 83-3 vote. Government ministers were sworn in at ceremonies held in Gaza and Ramallah.

In June 2007, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip from the national unity government[ after driving out Fatah.

On 14 June 2007, the dissolution of the agreed-upon unified government was announced and a state of emergency was declared.

Hamas took over the Gaza Strip at this point and the PA had West Bank. The twin governments of Palestine, each claiming dominance, continued the struggle to assert itself over Gaza, not recognise the authority of the other, each accusing the other of a coup d'etat .

The Palestinian police authorities ordered their personnel in the Gaza Strip not to follow the orders of Hamas. Several Fatah members fled Gaza to the West Bank, and Fatah gunmen stormed Hamas-led institutions in the West Bank after the Battle of Gaza.

The PA's rule in Gaza had ended in severe humiliation when Fatah members (some stripped to their underpants) fled Gaza strip to West Bank.

This has been an enduring impression of the collapse of the PA. The Hamas government is internationally not recognised, especially by Israel, the US and EU; instead, the PA is acknowledged.

However, after the split of the Palestinian parties, West Bank remained relatively quiet while Gaza witnessed constant conflict between Hamas and various other factions opposing Israel. The most prominent was the Gaza War in 2008.

In 2009, a radical Salafist cleric declared an Islamic Emirate in Gaza, and accused Hamas of failing to implement the Sharia law in its entirety.

The radicalisation of the Gaza Strip and attempts to undermine Hamas' authority resulted in the Hamas crackdown on Jund Ansar Allah, an Al-Qaeda affiliate that year. The incident lasted two days and claimed 22 lives.

In March 2019, there were rampant protests in Gaza, against the severe living conditions which were marked by 70 per cent unemployment among youth. The scale and intensity of the protests were unprecedented since Hamas assumed control of Gaza in 2007.

Hamas responded by implementing harsh measures that included dozens of individuals -- activists, journalists, and human rights workers -- getting beaten, arrested and subjected to home raids.

As matters stand, Hamas believes international pressure on Israel could help end the siege. With mounting civilian casualties, a ceasefire, truce, and a stand for negotiation for exchange of thousands of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli hostages lends credibility to Hamas's leadership and authority in the current situation.

Hamas has thus transformed from a militant group to a political entity.

(Kavya Dubey may be reached at ...)




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