There is relative calm after the storm on the streets of Gaza. It follows six days of bloody fighting between rival Palestinian factions after which Hamas militants seized full control of the Gaza Strip. More than 110 Palestinians have been killed in the violence, including civilians and children.
Looting is rife in the abandoned homes of Fatah leaders, and Gaza’s impoverished population is trying to survive amid the chaos. President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the three-month-old Hamas-led government on Thursday, declaring a state of emergency in Gaza and the West Bank following what he described as a “military coup”.
Abbas and other Fatah leaders have now taken refuge in Ramallah in the West Bank where Fatah remains in control and where militants celebrated last night the end of the unity government. The conflict has split Palestinians into two separate entities, throwing into jeopardy any prospect for a future state and peace with Israel.
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas has dismissed Abbas’ decision to dissolve his government, saying it will continue to function. He has also sought to reassure foreign organisations in Gaza, telling them they would still be able to work in safety. Two UN aid workers were killed during the violence this week, and aid agencies have been forced to pull out their personnel in recent months amid growing chaos.
While the EU has had to suspend humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip because of the violence, it is being reported Western leaders are considering easing sanctions on the West Bank to bolster Abbas.