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Palestinian Clan Battles By: David Bedein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, March 28, 2006

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the Fatah movement in the Palestinian territories, went through the motions of objecting to Hamas's platform. In a letter to Hamas Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniya on March 25, Abbas urged Hamas to change its platform to ensure international support of the PA. Fatah's Executive Committee went further and wanted Abbas to reject Hamas's agenda completely.

However, Abbas stressed that he would not block the establishment of a Hamas government. In other words, Abbas’s objections to Hamas were “only for show.”

In Abbas's own words, "While I regret that you have not adopted what was included in the letter of designation -- a stance that prevented the formation of a national unity government -- I have decided not to use the powers vested in me according to the basic law."

Abbas continues: "Instead, out of respect for the spirit of democratic process, and to enable you to take the full opportunity to assume responsibility, I will give you the chance to present your government to the Legislative Council for [a vote of] confidence."

Meanwhile, although Abbas pledged to monitor closely any Hamas government that is formed, he did not rule out the possibility of dissolving the government:

"I will closely monitor the government's performance and will continue to exercise my duties pursuant to the mandate granted to me by the people, and in accordance to the authorities vested in me by the basic law," Abbas wrote. "I will exercise my mandate and authority where and when needed to protect the higher interests of the Palestinian people."

The PA-owned media have expressed nervousness over the Hamas government. But they are trying to calm Palestinians, saying that Hamas would not be allowed to reverse the diplomatic gains achieved by the PLO over the last 12 years.

At the same time, leading clans in the Gaza Strip have acquired weapons for attacks against rivals and Palestinian Authority police. Virtually every major clan has formed its own security force to protect the interests of the family. They often use the services of PA police officers who are members of the family groups.

As a result, clashes between clans and battles with Palestinian police have risen sharply over the last year. The battles stem from turf wars as well as disputes over honor.

On March 22, a Palestinian was killed and three others were injured in a gun battle in Gaza City. The shootout stemmed from the abduction of a police officer earlier that day.
Officials said the violence was the result of friction between a clan member and PA police. The incident began when a high school principal called police to stop a 16-year-old student from closing the school to mark the anniversary o f the Israeli killing of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin.

A Palestinian Authority police officer attempted to remove the student and his friends from the school. Within minutes, the student, identified as Salama Al Oweidat, pulled a gun and opened fire. Police overpowered Al Oweidat and arrested him.

However, shortly thereafter, according to officials, gunmen from Al Oweidat's clan arrived and abducted the first police officer who had arrived on the scene, identified as Ashraf Mansour. Police reinforcements arrived in Sabra neighborhood where the clan lived and a shoot-out ensued.  One Palestinian was killed and three others were injured. By 3 p.m., Ashraf was released and so was Al Oweidat. The following day, the high school was torched by 50 students who belonged to Al Oweidat's clan.

"The arson took place against the backdrop of clashes between Palestinian police and a clan in the Gaza," the Palestinian Center for Human Ri ghts said on March 23. "The fire was caused by burning tires placed by the students at the door of the principal's office and secretary's office. The fire burned the two offices and guards' room completely. In addition, other parts of the ground floor were damaged. The students left the school after taking a computer with them."

Palestinian officials said government offices and hospitals have been attacked as part of clan rivalry. At one point, they reported, the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun was closed for more than two weeks because of a clash between rival families.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights has termed clan violence a leading element in the chaos in the Gaza Strip. The center has called on the PA to investigate.

On March 23rd , the Palestinian Center for Democracy reported that crime in the Gaza Strip has skyrocketed over the last two years. The group said "criminal" killings in the area went up from 56 in 2003, to 93 in 2004 and 156 in 2005. According to the Center, the PA has arrested 181 suspects. None of them has been executed for the killings.

Fatah Acknowledges Iranian Aid

This past week, the Fatah movement led by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has acknowledged funding and training from Iran.

Fatah military chief Zakaria Zbeidi said his group obtains funding, training and weapons from Iran. Zbeidi said the assistance arrives via Hizbullah, the Lebanese group sponsored by Teheran.

"Without the assistance of our Hizbullah brothers, we would not have been able to persist with our struggle," Zbeidi said. "They give us funds, arms, training, and support."

Zbeidi was quoted in an interview on March 6 with the German Welt am Sonntag newspaper. The interview was reprinted on the same day in the Kuwaiti daily Al Rai Al Aam.

This was the second time a Fatah military commander reported that Iranian aid was coming to the Palestinian insurgency group. Earlier, a Fatah commander identified as Abu Mujahed said Iran has become a major contributor to the Palestinian war against Israel.

In the interview, Zbeidi said Iran has been a model for Fatah. He said Fatah also consults regularly with Hizbullah.

"We coordinate our operations with them," Zbeidi said.
Until 2005, Fatah's military wing, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades had been regarded as the most active in the Palestinian war against Israel. In the West Bank, Zbeidi has coordinated Fatah missions with Islamic Jihad, another group sponsored by Iran.

In August 2004, Zbeidi denied reports of Iranian aid, but then added that such assistance was justified.  "This rumor is incorrect," Zbeidi said two years ago. "But let us assume for argument's sake that the [Al Aqsa Martyrs] Brigades did receive Hizbullah's support. What harm does it do?" In the interview with the German paper, Zbeidi said Fatah could not continue the war against Israel without Hizbullah support.

Who's Really Behind Al Qaida: the Jews, Of Course

Al Quds is by the far the most popular newspaper in the Palestinian Authority. So when, editors agree to place an article on the front page, then there must be some thought behind the decision.

Consider the following article Al Quds ran on page one on March 23. The story from the German DPA news agency quoted a Saudi official as saying that "world Zionism" was behind Al Qaida. Salah Zahrani, chairman of the Saudi Consultative Council's security committee told a lecture in Riyad that world Zionism has fueled Al Qaida attacks throughout the world.

The idea being promoted is that the Zionists sowed confusion among the Al Qaida leadership when they killed Al Qaida's real leader, Abdullah Azzam. The Mossad killed him because he wanted to bring Islamic holy war from Afghanistan to Palestine.
Since then, world Zionism has supplied Al Qaida and deceived its membership into attacking Islamic countries. Zahrani pointed out that Al Qaida has never conducted a major attack against the Jewish state. He also said Saudi security forces have found a Mossad link with Al Qaida, which has received weapons supplies from Israel.

In other words, the official voice of the Palestinian Authority alleges that an international Zionist conspiracy is funding the leading Arab terrorist organization in the world.

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David Bedein, author of the forthcoming book, "Swimming Against the Mainstream", has run the Israel Resource News Agency. www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com, since 1987, at the Beit Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, where he also heads the Center for Near East Policy Research and serves as the Middle East correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin, www.thebulletin.us.

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