debkafile Exclusive: Ahead of Rice Middle East mission, Hamas applies its Rapid Intervention Force for calculated move to smash Fatah’s last Gaza p

Another three Palestinians were killed Monday Oct. 2 in clashes between Fatah and Hamas combatants in Gaza, the day after fierce gunfights left 9 Palestinians dead and more than 100 injured.
debkafile reports: The ruling Palestinian Hamas took advantage of angry Fatah protests for unpaid wages to assert its domination of the Gaza Strip and pursued a standing plan to smash Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip, especially Muhammad Dahlan’s “death squads,” Fatah’s last viable group in the territory.
Hamas troops acted in advance of the meeting in Cairo Tuesday, Oct. 3, of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with the foreign ministers of six moderate Arab governments of the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. They are to discuss the new US Middle East initiative (see separate article).
According to debkafile‘s intelligence sources, Palestinian frictions were fueled by a decision by the Hamas Shura council, its supreme policy-making body, in the second week of September to set in motion two major steps.
The first was to hold out against all efforts to release the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gideon Shalit.
The second was to break up the unity government talks on power-sharing between Fatah and Hamas, which Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh had been holding on-and-off for months.
The two Shura decisions, which no one in Hamas is competent to flout, constituted a victory for the hard-line Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal as supreme leader of Hamas.
Abbas kept this terminal snarl-up of the Palestinian unity process under his hat as far as the Americans and Israelis were concerned.
But he ordered Fatah public-sector and security staff out of the streets for mass protests against the Hamas government’s failure to pay their wages for several months. On the quiet, Abu Mazen also sent Fatah death squads into violent action. They were told to beset Hamas officials with shooting attacks, assassinations and abductions in Gaza. In the seat of Palestinian government in Ramallah they set the Hamas cabinet building on fire.
Haniya thereupon ordered a crackdown to quell the outbreaks before power slipped from Hamas hands in both territories. The Hamas interior minister Said Siyam sent 5,000 members of the crack Hamas Rapid Intervention force out on the streets. This force is modeled on Hizballah’s special commandos.
debkafile‘s military sources report that the Hamas commandos laid into the Fatah death squads; in addition to killing 3 squad members, they took at least 30 officers prisoner including the squad’s commander, Sifwat Rahami, who was dragged from his home. Two of his officers fled into Sinai and headed for Cairo. The bodyguards of several Palestinian Fatah police chiefs were snatched, leaving them and their families unprotected.
Abu Mazen, as usual in a crisis, was out of the country. From one of the Arab emirates, he sent mixed instructions to his loyalists first to resist Hamas, then to back down. The turmoil continuing Monday culminated in a sort of compromise between Abu Mazen and the Hamas premier: National Security forces are to police Gaza’s streets to quell further outbreaks. debkafile adds: Since the bulk of this gendarmerie consists of pro-Hamas members, Hamas has come out on top of the incident. The Fatah, mainly Aqsa Brigades, vented its fury on cabinet offices in Ramallah after being bested n the Gaza Strip.
The outbreak upset the plan Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian king Abdullah drew up Saturday in Cairo for the Tuesday meeting on the Palestinian issue and the release of the Israeli soldier. Hamas indicated there would be no softening in any of its positions.

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