Thursday, May 17, 2007

Unity Fractures as Palestinians Battle in Gaza

This was on the front page of the New York Times today, and it was written by Steven Erlanger. It's a feature story updating us on the Hamas-Fatah conflict and how it is starting to drag in the Israeli army, because there are people being wounded and hurt in Israeli towns as a result of the fighting in the Gaza strip.

I was captivated by this article because of Erlanger's excessive use of numbers. "Excessive" is the wrong word, because that would mean that I was turned off by it, but really, I was just so in shock by how many people had been killed in that short amount of time.

This was my first time reading about the Hamas-Fatah conflict and so I had to Wikipedia it to find out more about it. I could already guess most of what it said about Hamas by the article, that it is considered a terrorist group by many countries, and the Hamas-Fatah conflict is a factional conflict between Palestinians. Hamas is currently the majority ruling party in Palestine, after the early 2006 elections. Because of that, the U.S. has been on strained terms with Palestine (though that's not the only reason.)

Anyway, there have been recently an increase of Hamas attacks on the Fatah, and also on Israeli towns (Wikipedia said that the Hamas are known for suicide bombings outside of Palestine, and also for attacks on Israeli civilians and military) and Erlanger writes that it is perhaps to prompt retaliation from the Israeli government so as to reunify Palestinians. These attacks have included rocket fire fired from Gaza that have wounded two Israeli women.

Erlanger goes into how if Israel retaliated strongly against Hamas, they could end up unifying the Palestinian factions against them. He gives the example of how last summer, when Israel faced a similar situation with the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, that instead of stopping the attacks from Hezbollah and strengthing the Lebanese government (that Israel wanted to strengthen), they got the opposite result: Hezbollah did not stop attacking and was thoroughly unified against Israel, and the Lebanese government was severly weakened.

I guess the Israel government learned its lesson, because it decided to think twice before responding harshly to the Hamas attacks.

"Israel is not going to be dragged into the Gaza Strip the way that Hamas wants," said Miri Eisin, spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "We will choose the time and place to respond. The price of any operation must be measured in terms of how effective it would be in stopping rocket fire, and the cost in life on both sides..."

The rest of the article is devoted to the violence that both sides have recieved, and honestly, it is so heartbreaking to read all these numbers, and about all these families that are being uprooted because they fear that they may be caught in the fire of the factional violence.

It really got to me when I read Abdel Hakim Awad, a Fatah spokesman said that Hamas leaders "want to turn Gaza into a new Somalia or Dafur." That's incredibly foreboding and it does not help that both sides are just so full of hate and anger. It's easy to dismiss Hamas as being in the wrong and being overly agressive (what with Wikipedia saying what it said- no, serious, look it up) but at the same time, Erlanger writes about certain Hamas who are in power who have stayed out of the fighting, like Islam Shahwan, and only decided to deploy against the Fatah because of the increased attacks towards the Hamas government. Really, it takes both sides to create this much problems and strife.

Towards the middle of the article, Erlanger writers about 200 Gaza residents who were marching in the center of Gaza City with Palestinian flags, trying to show peace. However, gunmen started to move around the group, and following gunfire, the demonstrators were scared off, and one was wounded.

I just went to the Times website to get pictures, and as it turns up, Erlanger has just posted another article. Judging from the headline ("8 Israeli Airstrikes in Gaza Kill At Least 7") it seems that the Israeli government has decided to take up the offensive. Damn it.


For some odd reason, Blogger is not letting me put up pictures. Well, if you got to the link above to the Times website, you will see the pictures I was going to put up. Also, if you do that, be sure to read the article. Erlanger does a good job conveying the helplessness of the civilians who don't seem to be angry or hateful, just frightened for their lives and children.

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