The final bastion of the Fatah Palestinian faction in the Gaza Strip has fallen to the gunmen of their rivals. A Hamas flag now flies over the Presidential compound there. After six days of fierce fighting, Islamist Hamas fighters have taken over all the remaining strongholds of President Abbas’s secular Fatah faction.
Some Fatah retaliation was reported against Hamas in the West bank. But it is the Gaza Strip which has been a Hamas stronghold. Having lost his grip in Gaza, President Abbas sacked the three-month-old unity government and declared a state of emergency in all the lands of the Palestinian authority, because of what he called “the criminal war and military coup”.
The Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, went on TV to say his ministers would ignore what he called the hasty decision to dismiss them, and the government would continue to function.
He called for an end to the bloodshed which he blamed on “criminal” Fatah acts. The US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice spoke to President Abbas, and reiterated US support for what she called Palestinian moderates. “President Abbas has exercised his lawful authority as president of the Palestinian Authority and as leader of the Palestinian people. I’d remind everyone, he was elected in 2005 by a large margin and we fully support him,” she said.
In Rafah, near the border with Egypt, there was jubilation as Hamas demolished the headquarters of Fatah’s National Security Building. The violence, which has claimed more than 110 lives in less than a week, has spelt an end to any immediate hope for a Palestinian state.