Gaza Strip in Chaotic Grip of Summary Executions, Reciprocal Hostage-taking

A deathly pall hangs over the Gaza Strip. Almost every morning, Gaza fishermen or early morning bathers on the Mediterranean beaches pull out of the water two, three, sometimes five, bodies, dead of gunshots to the head. Often they are the remains of missing, mid-level Hamas government officials, police or security officers. Their bodies are silently handed over to relatives brought to the beach by anonymous calls in the dead of night. The callers tell them the bodies of their dear ones can be collected after their execution as "traitors and collaborators."
No information is provided about their alleged crimes or who condemned them to death and carried out sentence – and no one dares ask.
In 2007, the fundamentalist extremist Hamas wrested control of the tiny Gaza Strip (360 sq. km; 1.55 million mostly Palestinian inhabitants) from the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority with which it maintains relations of enmity up until the present.
Three years later, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources report, the de facto rulers have turned against each other. At least 100 people are estimated dead and some 300 wounded in a secret war waged by Hamas' military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam, headed by Ahmed al-Jabari, against the fraternal Hamas security force commanded by Interior Minister Fathi Hamad.

Blowing up each other's officers

This week, big posters appeared on city walls calling on all Gazans to join the war against the "collaborators." School teachers were directed to explain to their pupils the importance of the campaign and encourage them to turn in their parents if they are suspected of this "crime." Mosque preachers were told to make this the main theme of their sermons.
The term "traitors and collaborators" is the catchall term used in Hamas and other Palestinian organizations for Palestinians working with Israel. However, since none of the condemned men are accused of consorting with Israel's clandestine agencies, the term is now understand generally as applying to the victims of the secret war rending Hamas.
The Israeli Air Force was drawn willy-nilly into the conflict. Early Monday, Aug. 2, a huge blast flattened the home of a Hamas commander in the southern town of Deir al-Balakh leaving at least 32 people injured. Palestinian officials first blamed an Israeli ground missile. This was denied by the IDF which was not active in that area at the time.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources found the blast was an attack on the Hamas military wing's local commander executed by the rival intelligence.
Non-existent Israeli Air Force strikes have been automatically blamed initially for similar bomb blasts which turned out to be tit-for-tat attacks against high officers of either faction, often wiping out entire families.

The plague of reciprocal hostage-taking

Along with the bombings, kidnappings rife by day and night plague the tiny territory. Both camps take hostages. If one camp executes its victims, the other retaliates in kind – summarily and without benefit of trial. Some are held to ransom – either to buy hostages from the opposition or the concession of a piece of territory.
The two feuding factions are believed to be holding up to 250 hostages between them.
In a speech inaugurating a new police station on July 27, Interior Minister Fathi Hamad said he was considering expanding his security force (estimated at 18,000 strong) by volunteers and introducing compulsory military service for all men aged 17 to 28.
His rival, Al-Jabari saw this as a threat to create a full-scale military force for Gaza in competition to his 12,000-strong Ezzedine al-Qassam and therefore a provocative challenge to his authority. That night, he doubled the violent raids. At least 20 people were killed and 60 injured in a single night.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly finds it hard to find an expert on the Palestinian scene capable of explaining what the two rival factions are fighting for beyond the usual political infighting between two factional leaders who detest each other and are hungry for more turf and influence. Yet this does not account for the unbridled brutality of the fight between the fraternal adversaries.
It has even run out of the control of Hamas' supreme leaders, prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, Mahmoud A-Zahar and the Damascus-based politburo head Khaled Meshaal, none of whom appear capable of restraining the excesses of Fathi Hamad and Ahmad al-Jabary.

The Hamas Shura Council's fade-out leaves anarchy

According to one view voiced in Western Intelligence circles, the entire Hamas movement is in a tumult of internal strife, but whereas its large communities in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the West Bank are subject to some sort of government control, in the Gaza Strip the most violent elements of a movement dedicated to jihad are their own overlords. They are free to squabble over the money and weapons pouring into the Gaza Strip free of any restraining authority but their own.
Until early this year, Hamas's supreme authority was the Shura Council. Their identities a close secret from the grass roots, this arcane institution had the final word on all religious, political and military matters in the Gaza Strip. Its directives were handed down to the Hamas's high executive bodies – the political bureau headed by Khaled Meshaal and the military commission with authority over Hamas forces in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Some time in March or April, the Shura Council suddenly stopped functioning for no known cause. There was speculation that the fadeout was due to prevalent death or illness among its members. To fill the empty space in Hamas governance, Meshaal appointed a new religious-command council for taking over the moribund Shura Council's powers and functions. But most of Hamas leaders in Lebanon, Jordan and other places refused to recognize the new council's authority, suspecting it was a tool wielded by Meshaal to make himself overall ruler of the entire movement.
As a result, Hamas' Middle East leadership in all its branches is sunk in a state of extreme dysfunction.

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