Thursday, December 14, 2006

High Noon never ends in the Gaza Strip

Who knew that things would start to heat up on the Pally Watch front the minute I was otherwise engaged in training my replacement before I start my holiday tomorrow. Ynet News carries this report:
A Palestinian official said one of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's bodyguards was killed when his convoy came under fire as he left Rafah Thursday night. Another bodyguard, the prime minister's son and a political adviser were wounded, the official said, holding members of Abbas' presidential guard responsible. The son was not seriously wounded, officials said.

Hamas followers of Haniyeh exchanged fire with rival Fatah forces several times during the day, and the gunfire continued as Haniyeh’s convoy passed through the checkpoint from Egypt after a long wait. Israel had banned him from entering Gaza with millions of dollars in cash.

Earlier it was reported that Haniyeh's passage from Egypt into Gaza was delayed due to the fact that European monitors, who eventually approved his entry into the Strip, refused to make their way to the Rafah crossing for fear that the thousands of Hamas supporters who had gathered there would attack them. As word of the drama in Rafah spread throughout the Strip, Hamas leaders called on thousands of the group’s supporters to make their way to the crossing and assist in taking it over.

During the gathering, exchanges of fire took place between Hamas gunmen and members of Mahmoud Abbas’ Presidential Guard; additional gun battles erupted between Hamas gunmen and Egyptian security officers, who attempted to prevent the crowd from reaching the border fence.

Has there has ever been a border which Europeans won’t run from?

My next thought was to wonder who tipped off the Israelis to Haniyeh and his stash of cash? And then, who and what induced the Israelis to actively intervene in parting Haniyeh from his stash of cash. This isn’t the first time a Hamas member has returned bearing cash but it is the first time Israel has actively intervened.

So who did Haniyeh trust enough to hold onto the US$30 million he has reputedly raised from a fund rising tour of Arab states.

What is the message Fatah wants to send by using Abbas’ President Guard to open fire on Haniyeh’s convoy? Perhaps, even more importantly, we should be speculating who actually made the decision and gave the order to Abbas’ Presidential Guards to open fire on Haniyeh’s convoy.

My gut says it’s not Abbas. He has been expending a great deal of energy trying to come to some kind of compromise position with Hamas. Despite the hoopla, Abbas cannot afford to get into an open confrontation with Hamas. Abbas does not have the strength to overcome Hamas by boots/guns on the ground. The Fatah leadership is seriously divided and Abbas holds the weak hand. Abbas is not in position to make good on his threats to dissolve the Parliament and call either an election or general referendum, as he and Fatah stand a good chance of being wiped off the electoral board which is why all he does is threaten in the last three months. But obviously someone else is feeling a mite cocky. So who not only holds the loyalty, but the command of Abbas' Presidential Guards?

Update: Abbas expresses regret for attack on Haniyeh's convoy


Michael said...

No one had to tip off the Israelis about Haniyeh's "stash of cash," as you put it.

Most newspapers in this part of the world (I didn't check the US papers) reported the Iranian and Sudanese gov't's open declarations of support and pledges of money. There was no secrecy to pierce, on this one.

As for "where's the dough," I read that it was left with the Egyptian representative to the Arab League.

At least there, it'll take a while before it can buy a qassam rocket.

Kateland, aka TZH said...

Michael, I realize the money pledged has been widely reported but the Arab donors are also notorious for pledging money and then never following through, or only follow through with a portion of pledged cash.

But why did Peretz chose to act this time? Red beard, the Hamas foreign minister has been bringing in all the suitcases full of cash he hasn't lost and Israel has never delayed his entry. Why this time? It makes for good PR on the Israeli side but I am rather suspicious.

Besides, one doesn't need to spend the cash on the Gaza side of the border for weapons or rocket making materials. Personally, if I was Haniyeh, I would rather shop for arms on the Egyptian side of the border as opposed to buying local. Its the difference between paying retail for local or wholesale for foreign.

Which is kind of why I am curious about the actual identity of the alleged "representative" of the Arab league who is holding the cash.