Hamas Pulls Ahead of Dahlan’s Forces in Gaza

The latest truce in the escalating Palestinian warfare broke down almost as soon as it was declared Friday night, Feb. 2. The Fatah delegation to talks with Hamas in Gaza City on a mechanism for enforcing the ceasefire came under attack as its convoy drove away from the meeting. Earlier, two Palestinians were killed shortly after Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) agreed on a ceasefire with his rival, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that Palestinian infighting in Gaza can no longer be defined simply as a straight conflict between Abbas’ Fatah and the radical Islamic Hamas – even though their leaders, Abbas and Meshaal, are to meet in Mecca next week to attempt a reconciliation under the stern eye of Saudi King Abdullah.
In the latest round of fighting, 25 Palestinians, including civilians and children, died Thursday and Friday. Another 250 were injured as Hamas went on the offensive to grab and destroy Fatah’s Gaza Strip bases. In 48 hours, Hamas gunmen had blown up General Intelligence HQ in Gaza City and attacked the main facility of the Preventive Security Service facility, which is headed by Fatah adherent Rashid Abu Shbak. A number of security officers were injured or taken captive. A Hamas mortar barrage Friday killed Abu Awad, commander of the Fatah-led Palestinian Intelligence Service in the northern Gaza Strip. Abbas’ Force 17 presidential guard also came under attack.
At this point, Hamas has the upper hand against a foe led by the former Gaza Strip strongman, ex-Palestinian minister and Abbas ally Muhammad Dahlan. He has pretty well commandeered the Fatah side of the conflict, turning it into a personal crusade to recover his private power base in the territory. If he attains that objective, which is doubtful at the moment, his next allegiance is anyone’s guess.
Even now, he is not choosy about the gangs in his pay, who tend to be easily bought and sold. He is also believed to be in league with the local al Qaeda cell.
Dahlan’s effort has been fueled by the $100 m of frozen revenue money which Israel released to the Palestinian Authority headed by Abbas, who has also been promised $86m by the Bush administration.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources point out that all the warring parties have agreed that two areas are hallowed. One is the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure, including the 3,000 Qassam missiles Hamas has arrayed opposite Sderot and other Western Negev communities, and the other is the illicit corridor system, above and below ground, for the smuggling of fighters, missiles, weapons, money and explosives from Egyptian Sinai to the Gaza Strip. Both have been kept safely out of the conflict.
A senior Israeli officer stationed in the Gaza vicinity told debkafile: In many respects, the Gaza situation resembles the darkest corners of war-torn Baghdad or Mogadishu in Somalia: The shifting loyalties of the gangs engaged in bloody warfare cannot be pinned down even by their paymasters or weapons suppliers.
The officer cited the example of the senior Khan Younes imam, Hussein al-Shabasi, who was murdered on Jan 30. He held down three jobs as imam of the mosque, sergeant-major of the local PLO marine police unit and chief of the town’s Hamas Izz e-din al-Qassam unit.
Dahlan’s gunmen may have liquidated him as a Hamas officer, but no one knows this for sure. In lawless Khan Younes, many would have killed him to steal his jobs and sources of income.
Dahlan is now in the process of establishing a new militia called the Al Saiqa Force, Fatah’s first name when it was founded by Yasser Arafat in the 1960s. He is recruiting among any Gazan groups not directly affiliated with Hamas. He is well supplied with cash from America and Israel and has enough arms on tap from Egypt and Israel.
To satisfy those sources, Dahlan must prove his effectiveness – even as he loses points to Hamas. Thursday night, Feb. 1, his spokesmen described a Fatah raid of the Islamic University in Gaza City, a Hamas stronghold. This raid did take place. However, the account was embroidered by the claim of the capture of 7 Iranian agents, officers, chemical weapons experts – and even a general. One of the captives was described as having killed himself rather than face exposure.
This tale sounded suspiciously like a takeoff on a similar US operation in the northern Iraq town of Irbil last month, a piece of propaganda designed to hit the right buttons in Washington. It was published far and wide, although no corroboration was forthcoming. Once again, the facts are different. Dahlan’s gunmen have never touched the officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Syrian military intelligence or Hizballah, who are in Gaza busily building a war machine for the next Palestinians offensive against Israel.
Muhammad Dahlan has achieved the extraordinary feat of being held from 1995 by two US administrations as the great white Palestinian hope. In those twelve years, debkafile‘s counter-terror sources estimate Washington has invested in him between $1 and 1.5 million in cash, weapons and intelligence, despite his murky record in the service of Yasser Arafat’s suicide terror machine and since.
The only real outcome yielded by this outlay is that Dahlan has been made a multimillionaire, no credible national Palestinian security mechanism has been established to this day and American support and cash continue to roll into his personal warchest.

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