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Red on Red in the West Bank and Gaza

The Israeli Defense Force conducted raids further into the West Bank, this time in Nablus, after earlier operations in Tulkarm on the Israeli-West Bank border. A Palestinian was killed and several more wounded as Israel continued its hunt for Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists after the PIJ suicide bombing in Netanya. Palestinians claimed that the IDF was firing at stone throwers, but Israel denied, saying they were returning fire from gunmen, which was also what was stated by West Bank witnesses. Once again, terrorists using children as shields.

In the West Bank, witnesses said Israeli soldiers wounded 12 stonethrowers and a gunman during clashes in Nablus in which militants mingled with youth throwing stones at soldiers during an Israeli arrest raid.

The Israeli army said troops had fired toward Palestinian gunmen who shot at them, but did not believe their fire had hit anyone. The army denied targetting [sic] stonethrowers.

In a scene reminiscent of last Thursday’s murder of an Israeli security officer stabbed at a Jerusalem border crossing, a Palestinian teenager attempted to stab a Border Police officer while trying to enter the IDF district offices in Jenin. He was disarmed and detained. Israel was also active again on the northern edge of the Gaza Strip, where more rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza village of Abassan overnight. One Palestinian was killed there also.

Earlier today, an Israeli airstrike in Gaza killed at least 3 terrorists of the Popular Resitance Committees and possibly one member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as they traveled in a car, reportedly enroute to carry out an attack. Witnesses said that there was a drone heard overhead at the time of the strike. The strike took place near the Israeli-Gaza Karni Crossing.

At the Fatah headquarters in Gaza, armed al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades members stormed the offices demanding jobs and claiming discrimination by other factions of Fatah. What ensued was a gunbattle between the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades members and the other Fatah members at the headquarters building. Three people were injured, including a bystander outside the offices. al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is itself a faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ ruling Fatah movement.

The in-fighting was not limited to Gaza, as the West Bank also saw its share of turmoil. Gunmen stormed the Nablus offices, firing into the air, destroying parts of the offices and ripping out computers, which they took with them. Abbas pledged to protect election workers while at the same time reportedly rounding up members of the PIJ. The election offices have been closed.

In response, election commission director Ammar al-Dweik announced, “We have suspended all work until we receive security for our offices and our staff.”

Election commission head Hanna Nasser met with Abbas to discuss the crisis. Abbas pledged to protect election workers and “take required measures against the aggressors,” said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Abbas.

All told, the Red on Red clashes at election offices took place in Nablus in the West Bank and Gaza City, Rafah and Khan Younis in Gaza.

The continuing internal fighting among various factions of Fatah leading into the January 25 elections serves to strengthen the already formidable challenge to their grasp on power mounted by Hamas. January looks to be an eventful month in the Levant, as the end of the informal truce agreement between various terrorist groups and Israel nd the Palestinian elections will violently cross paths.

Feedback

Steve,

I wonder what will come first, a democratic functioning Palestine or a democratic functioning Iraq. I have my thoughts.

It will require a desire for better political representation by the Palestinians before change can happen. However, it is sad to see opportunity after opportunity seem to slip by.

Thanks for the post.

Kind regards,

Bill Rice

Related to Bill Rice's point, I think that there will be a functioning democracy in Iraq first. The reason is that there is a crucial difference between Iraq and Palestine: in the former there has been a clean break with the past, and in the latter there is not. Abbas may well be more sincere about peace than Arafat was, but he was part of Arafat's corrupt gang, a functionary rather than a "muscle" member of Fatah, but nevertheless not a new beginning.

In Iraq there are significant obstacles remaining, but clearly there is progress, things are moving in the right direction. I don't know if that is true in the case of Palestine. There have been indications both ways.

What we are seing now, I think, is a natural result of the manner in which Arafat kept power: he developed a myriad of security apparatuses (17 as I recall) with separate leaderships, all of which only reported to him. Once he died, this left all these different factions deciding whether or not to tranfer their allegiance to Abbas. Since they had guns, they got to make that decision on their own free of coercion. This is why there are these armed factions within the ruling party; they were there before, but the common tie is gone.

As long as the bad guys possess all the weapons and money and all the good guys--the ordinary Palestinian people--don't have crap, how can anything good come out of this situation without an extremely dramatic show of opposition?

Abbas seems to not have the will to do what is necessary or is waiting for an opportune time.

In the end, I think something like with the warlords in Afghanistan has to happen. Who knows if it can work for the Palestinians.

Shawn, the phrasing of your comment suggests that Afghan-style warlordism is almost a best-case scenario for the Palestinians. I laughed when I read that. I'm not really an optimist when it comes to the Palestinian front, but if that is the best they can do, that's pretty bad. And Abbas does act like a hapless figurehead a lot of the time. One point I like to make is that if you defend yourself against allegations of connection to violence by claiming that you are powerless, that works for a while, but then everyone starts to believe you, and then you really are.

Basically, what I had in mind when I wrote that was the disarmament of warlord-led militias and transfer of security to a national military force and political leadership to elected officials. I believe that's what is happening in Afghanistan, at least in process, is it not? Perhaps it is not as far along as I had thought.

Shawn:
I misunderstood what you meant. I do think that the integration of the warlords' forces are "in process," but my understanding was that genuine progress at eroding their power was not great. I think that the central govt there is firming up, but my impression was that they still to this day retain a great deal of power in the provinces.