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Bombs in Gaza, Parties in Ramallah

As Hamas-Fatah tensions increase across the West Bank and Gaza, the city of Ramallah has become a bustling oasis from strife.

by
Rinat Malkes

Bio

July 30, 2008 - 9:35 am
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While the Gaza Strip tensions have already reached the northern West Bank, with at least 35 detentions of Hamas affiliates by Fatah loyalists in Nablus, Jenin, and Tul Karem, Ramallah’s residents still insist on enjoying the summer.

The blasé attitude seems to have infected even the biggest symbols of the Palestinian intifada, such as Fatah leader Zacaria Zbeide. PJM spoke exclusively to him after he left his guarded bunker in the Jenin refugee camp for the first time in eight years to look for an ophthalmologist in Ramallah. After receiving a pardon from the Israeli government in a deal reached with the Palestinian Authority, the popular leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade seems tired of fighting.

During the three-day visit to Ramallah, Zbeide was received as a hero by the citizens. Hosted by a senior Fatah affiliate, he said he was relieved: it was the first time in the past years he’d left his home without looking to the skies, fearing an Israeli plane would be hovering looking for a chance to eliminate him.

“I’m not wanted anymore and I’m happy for this. I don’t care about the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas fight. They only talk and think about their own political interests. They completely forgot the people’s needs. After Arafat we really have no leadership. I’m a military leader and I’m very proud I am alive as the Israelis tried to kill me many times and failed. But I’m concerned about the future. It’s not the political Fatah-Hamas infighting that matters, but the Palestinian people. We are destroying Palestinian kids’ childhood and future and it’s unacceptable and unbearable. If we carry on like this, I can foresee a third Intifada coming. And if there’s a need, I won’t join as a political leader, but a military one.”

While many fear Hamas-Fatah clashes could spread to the West Bank, Israel has its own worries. Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin has expressed deep concerns that Hamas is rearming and turning into a real threat to security in the south of the country. During the government’s weekly cabinet meeting this week, he reported that weapons smuggling to the Gaza Strip has sharply increased in the past months and at least four tons of explosives, Qassam rocket material, and 50 anti-tank missiles have been smuggled into the Strip through tunnels connecting it to Egypt.

Ahmad Yousef, Hamas leader Ismayil Hanieh’s main political advisor, declared in an article written for Palestinian news agency Maan that despite the current atmosphere, “more than any time before, it is suitable for launching a campaign for national dialogue between the rival factions.”

The Palestinian Authority is clearly making huge efforts to prevent the Hamas-Fatah crisis from escalating.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declined to comment on the situation. He preferred to head to Cairo to hold talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, denying any involvement of his loyals in the incident in Gaza. Fatah men, however, are threatening to arrest 200 Hamas members in the West Bank.

In divided Palestine, peace seems always to be around the corner, yet instability is the rule and the future is always uncertain.

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Rinat Malkes is a Tel Aviv-based journalist.
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