Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fatah has Eyes for Gaza

by Dr. Reuven Berko

The attempt by a suicide bomber -- probably from Sinai -- to blow up a car targeting the Egyptian interior minister's convoy last week miraculously failed. Add to that a deadly terrorist attack and the unending series of protests, and you can see what sort of chaos the Muslim Brotherhood aspires towards -- chaos with the goal of precipitating a deterioration in Egypt that would facilitate the reinstallation of deposed President Mohammed Morsi. 

Despite Muslim Brotherhood leaders' proclamations that they oppose violence or using weapons, their activities have significantly worsened, leading the Egyptian armed forces to respond to the active threat leveled against them. During heightened security operations, the Egyptian army has arrested several Brotherhood leaders. Many worshippers were imprisoned while completing Friday prayers at a central mosque in Asyut, a city located in central mainland Egypt. Inspired by Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb, who is acting in understanding and in concert with the new government, several imams were fired and replaced with Al-Azhar graduates, those faithful to the regime. The government is mulling whether to outlaw the Brotherhood entirely. 

This thorough crackdown against Muslim Brotherhood collaborators also includes a sweep of outlying areas in Sinai, which has transformed into separatist enclaves for the Islamic terrorism behind the attacks against military and strategic targets in Egypt. Some of the government's measures were also directed against Hamas in Gaza because the Islamist group could be linked with the subversive terrorist attacks in Egypt, assisting their cousin group, the Muslim Brotherhood. 

Hamas is suffering from King Midas syndrome. The group had accumulated vast riches from the smuggling-tunnel industry until it was ruined. Because of the destruction and strangulation at the Rafah border, the movement's leadership has nothing to buy with all the money. Meanwhile, the infrastructural, medical and economic systems are crashing, and protest groups such as Tamarod are preparing for mass marches against Hamas throughout the Strip. 

According to the weekly Watan magazine, which is based on the Arab Secrets website, Fatah is forming a militia in Sinai under the leadership of Mohammed Dahlan. The goal of this militia is to break into the Gaza Strip, with Egyptian assistance, and terminate the Hamas government. Even if the development is merely a smokescreen, it appears that Hamas is actually afraid of the possibility that Fatah would spark flames in its backyard. 

Fatah was exiled from Gaza following the 2006 Palestinian elections. But the Palestinian Authority never abandoned its desire to return to power in Gaza and function as the leader of the Palestinian nation. Hamas, which enjoyed an improving diplomatic situation toward the end of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's rein and especially during Morsi's time, felt it was the Palestinians' exclusive ruler, ignoring PA President Mahmoud Abbas' attempts at reconciliation. However, once allegations were raised over the schism among Palestinians, Hamas understood it had a problem. Bridges needed to be mended to form a cohesive Palestinian entity, so several meetings were held to reconcile the two parties. But Hamas Political Bureau chief Khaled Mashaal and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh systematically thwarted such efforts. Now, because of Morsi's overthrow and the loss of its support centers in Iran, Lebanon and Syria, Hamas has become isolated. 

There are persistent rumors on the ground that Fatah has not given up on renewing its control of the Strip and is going to reinstate itself with operative assistance from the Egyptians. Signs indicating the eradication of Hamas infrastructure in Rafah and in Sinai, expanding intelligence activities and the further deployment of Egyptian security personnel on the border with Gaza and shared interests with Fatah all attest to the Egyptian refusal to sit idly by, even with what has been happening inside the Strip itself.

Dr. Reuven Berko


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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