Fatah–Hamas conflict

Fatah–Hamas conflict
Fatah-Hamas conflict
Part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict[dubious ]
A map of the Gaza Strip showing key towns and neighbouring countries
Date 2006-2011 (military conflict mainly 2007)
Location Gaza Strip (mostly), West Bank
Status ended
  • Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip
  • New Palestinian Government in the West Bank, appointed by Mahmoud Abbas
  • Reconciliation agreement signed May 2011
Hamas flag2.png Hamas Palestinian territories Fatah
Commanders and leaders
Hamas flag2.png Ismail Haniya
Hamas flag2.png Khaled Meshaal
Hamas flag2.png Mohammed Deif
Palestinian territories Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian territories Mohammed Dahlan
Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades: 15,000
Executive Police Force: 6,000[1][2]
National Security: 30,000
Preventive Security Service: 30,000
General Intelligence: 5,000
Presidential Guard: 4,200
Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade: Several thousand[1][2]
Casualties and losses
83 killed 165 killed
98 civilians killed
1,000+ wounded on both sides, at least 600 killed in factional fighting.[3]

The Fatah–Hamas conflict (Arabic: النزاع بين فتح و حماسAl-Nizāʿ bain Fataḥ wa Ḥamās), also referred to as the Palestinian Civil War (Arabic: الحرب الأهلية الفلسطينية Al-Ḥarb al-ʾAhliyyah al-Filisṭīnīyah), and the Conflict of Brothers (Arabic: صراع الأخوة Ṣirāʿ al-Ikhwah), i.e. fratricidal war, began in 2006 after Hamas's legislative victories and continued, politically and sometimes militarily, until a reconciliation agreement was signed in May of 2011. The conflict was between the two main Palestinian parties, Fatah and Hamas. The conflict is called Wakseh among Palestinians, meaning humiliation, ruin, and collapse as a result of self-inflicted damage.



The tensions between Hamas and Fatah began to rise in 2005 after the death of longtime PLO leader Yasser Arafat, who died on November 11, 2004, and intensified after Hamas won the elections of 2006.

2006 elections

Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections. In reaction, Israel, the United States, the European Union, several Western states, and the Arab states imposed sanctions suspending all foreign aid, upon which Palestinians depend. (They have promised to resume aid if Hamas fulfills '3 Demands,' recognizing Israel, accepting agreements made by the Palestinian Authority under the previous Fatah-led Administration, and denouncing violence.) Despite the sanctions, and incidents of successful border interdiction,[4] Hamas leaders were able to smuggle enough money into the Palestinian territories to maintain basic health and educational services.[5] The defeated Fatah party maintains control of most of the Palestinian security apparatus outside Gaza. The US administration funded Abbas's Presidential Guard.[6]

Alleged involvement of the United States, Britain, Israel and Arab states

According to the IISS, the reason for the takeover was Hamas’s conviction that the Palestinian Authority Presidential Guard loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, which the US had helped build up to 3,500 men since August 2006, was being positioned to take control of Gaza. The US committed $59 million for training and non-lethal equipment for the Presidential Guard, and persuaded Arab allies to fund the purchase of further weapons. Israel, too, allowed light arms to flow to members of the Presidential Guard. The US insisted that all of its aid to the Presidential Guard is "nonlethal," consisting of training, uniforms, and supplies, as well as paying for better infrastructure at Gaza's borders. "The situation has gotten to be quite dire in Gaza, we have a situation of lawlessness and outright chaos," Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, who was overseeing the US program, said. "This chaotic situation is why the [US] is focused on [helping] the legal, legitimate security forces in our effort to reestablish law and order."[7][8][9][10] Jordan and Egypt hosted at least two battalions for training.[11] Beginning in 2004, British intelligence MI6 prepared plans for a wide-ranging crackdown on Hamas, in cooperation with British officials at Whitehall, and these plans were passed to Jibril Rajoub senior Fatah official in charge of security, according the cache of Palestine Papers leaked to the press in 2011.[12] Most of these British plans, calling for the internment of leaders and activists, the closure of radio stations and the replacement of imams in mosques were implemented later during the conflict.[12]

March 2006 to December 2006: rise of tensions

The period from March to December 2006 was marked by tensions when Fatah commanders refused to take orders from the government while the Palestinian Authority initiated a campaign of assassinations and abductions against Hamas.[13] which led to Hamas beginning its own.[13] Tensions further grew between the two Palestinian factions after they failed to reach a deal to share government power. On December 15, Abbas called for a Palestinian general election.[14] Hamas challenged the legality of holding an early election, maintaining its right to hold the full term of its democratically elected offices. Hamas characterized this as an attempted Fatah coup by Abbas,[15] using undemocratic means to overthrow the results of a democratically elected government.[11]

According to one Palestinian rights group, more than 600 Palestinians were killed in fighting from January 2006 to May 2007.[16] A serious escalation in the violence was marked by the 2006 Rimal neighborhood shootings.


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First round of fighting

On December 15, 2006, fighting broke out in the West Bank after Palestinian national security forces fired on a Hamas rally in Ramallah. At least 20 people were wounded in the clashes, which came shortly after Hamas accused Fatah of attempting to assassinate Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister.[17]

Intense fighting continued throughout December 2006 and January 2007 in the Gaza Strip. Several ceasefire attempts failed, being broken by continued battles. In February 2007, Palestinian rivals met in the Islamic holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and reached an accord ensuring a ceasefire. However, minor incidents continued through March and April 2007. More than 90 people were killed in these first months.

Second round of fighting

In mid-May 2007, clashes erupted once again in the streets of Gaza. In less than 20 days, more than 50 Palestinians were killed. Leaders of both parties tried to stop the fighting by calling dozens of truces, but none of them held for longer than a few days.

By most accounts, Hamas performed better than Fatah in the second round of fighting. Some attribute this to the discipline and better training of Hamas's fighters,[18] as most of the casualties were from the Fatah faction.

Third round of fighting: Gaza – Hamas reasserts control

Throughout the four days of fighting Hamas took control of the main north–south road and the coastal road.[19] The Israeli government closed all check-points on the borders of Gaza in response to the violence. During the four days of intense fighting at least 116 people were killed.

West Bank: Fatah wins and establishes a separate government

The attacks of Hamas gunmen against Fatah security forces in the Gaza Strip resulted in a reaction of Fatah gunmen against Hamas institutions in the West Bank. Although Hamas's numbers were greater in the Gaza Strip, Fatah forces were greater in the West Bank.

On June 14, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the dissolution of the current unity government and the declaration of a state of emergency.[20][21] Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya was dismissed, and Abbas began to rule Gaza and the West Bank by presidential decree. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded by declaring that President Abbas's decision was "in practical terms ... worthless," asserting that Haniya "remains the head of the government even if it was dissolved by the president".[22][23]

Nathan Brown of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace commented that under the 2003 Palestinian Constitution Abbas clearly had the right to declare a state of emergency and dismiss the prime minister but the state of emergency could continue only for 30 days. After that it would need to be renewed by the (Hamas-dominated) Legislative Council, which also constrained the breadth of his emergency powers. Neither Hamas nor Fatah had enough votes to form a new government under the constitution.[24] The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights condemned Hamas's "decision to resolve the conflict militarily" but argued that "steps taken by President Mahmoud Abbas in response to these events violate the Basic Law and undermine the Basic Law in a manner that is no less dangerous."[25]

On June 15, Abbas appointed Salam Fayyad as prime minister and gave him the task of forming a new government.[26]

The West Bank had its first casualty when the bullet-riddled body of a Hamas militant was found in Nablus, sparking the fear that Fatah would use its advantage in the West Bank for retaliation against its members' deaths in the Gaza Strip[27] On the same day, Hamas also declared that it was in full control of Gaza, a claim denied by Abbas.[28]

On June 16, a Fatah-linked militant group, the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, stormed the Hamas-controlled parliament based in Ramallah in the West Bank. This act, including the ransack of the ministry of education, was seen as a reaction to similar looting occurring following Hamas's military success in Gaza.[29]

On June 20, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar declared that if Fatah continued to try to uproot Hamas in the West Bank, it could lead to Fatah's downfall there as well. He would not deny when asked that Hamas resistance against Fatah would take the form of attacks and suicide bombings similar to those that Hamas has used against Israel in the past.[30]

Renewed clashes in Gaza

On October 17, clashes erupted in eastern Gaza between Hamas security forces and members of the powerful Heles clan (Fatah-affiliated), leaving up to two dead on both sides. Fatah and Hamas officials gave conflicting accounts of what caused the fighting but the dispute seems to have originated when Hamas officials demanded that the clan return a governmental car. Another gun battle on October 20 killed one member of the clan and a 13-year-old boy.[31] During the same day, in Rafah, one woman was killed and eight people were injured when Hamas security members traded fire with Islamic Jihad activists. Two days later, 7 more Palestinians were killed in the internal fighting, including some Hamas militants and a Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant.[32]

On August 2, 2008, approximately 180 Palestinian Fatah activists who remained in Gaza crossed into Israeli territory, some of them injured. For humanitarian reasons, the IDF allowed Palestinians who disarmed to enter the country. Those injured were given medical treatment inside Israel.

On November 12, a large demonstration dedicated to the memory of late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat was organized by Fatah in Gaza City. With over 200,000 participants, this was the largest Fatah demonstration in the Gaza Strip since the Hamas takeover. The demonstration was forcibly dispersed by Hamas gunmen, who fired into the crowd. At least six civilians were killed and over 80 people were injured, some from being trampled in the resulting stampede.[33] The smaller militant group Islamic Jihad, whose members have clashed with Hamas several times, condemned the shootings.


On January 1, 2008, at least eight people died in factional fighting in the Gaza Strip.[34]

On March 23, 2008, Hamas and Fatah signed an agreement in Sana'a, Yemen that amounted to a reconciliation deal. It called for a return of the Gaza Strip to the pre-June 2007 situation, though this has not happened.[35]

On May 31, 2009, six people were killed as Palestinian Authority and Hamas forces clashed in Qalqilya. Ethan Bronner described the fighting as an indication "that the Palestinian unity needed for creation of a state is far off." [36]

2011 reconciliation agreement

Hamas and Fatah, among other Palestinian groups, held talks aimed at reconciling rival factions[37] for the first time in two years in February of 2010. In March 2010, on the Doha Debates television show, representatives of Fatah and Hamas discussed the future of the Palestinian leadership.[38]

On 27 April 2011, representatives of the two factions announced an agreement[39], mediated by Egypt, to form a joint caretaker government, with presidential and legislative elections to be held in 2012.[40] On May 4, 2011 at a ceremony in Cairo the agreement was formally signed by the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.[41][42] The accord provides for forming a "transitional" government of technocrats to prepare for legislative and presidential elections to the Palestinian Authority in one year. It also permits the entry of Hamas into the Palestine Liberation Organization and holding of elections to its Palestine National Council decision-making body. The Palestinian Authority continues to handle security in the West Bank, as does Hamas in Gaza. They will form a joint security committee to decide on future security arrangements. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu objected because Hamas still calls for the destruction of Israel. The United States said the new Palestinian government must recognize Israel, continue previous agreements with it and renounce violence.[43]

In June 2011, following the unity accord, negotiations proceeded regarding the formation of a unity government. Among the issues discussed were recognition of Israel, security, governance, relations with the West, and economic policy. Hamas had initially indicated that it wished to remain out of governance to focus on the more social work it conducted prior to its 2006 ascendancy, but it later retracted this statement. Negotiations were derailed over the issue of who would assume the position of Prime Minister, after Hamas rejected the appointment of current Palestinian Authority PM Salam Fayyad.[44]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Religious war in Gaza". Ynet. 2007-02-03. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3360655,00.html. 
  2. ^ a b Henry Chu (2007-05-17). "Factional fighting in Gaza imperils unity government". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/wireless/avantgo/la-fg-palestinians17may17,0,6814988.story. [dead link] Article reprinted at http://www.unitedjerusalem.org/index2.asp?id=917806&Date=5/18/2007
  3. ^ "Over 600 Palestinians killed in internal clashes since 2006". Ynetnews.com. 1995-06-20. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3409548,00.html. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  4. ^ "Hamas minister carries millions of dollars into Gaza". Reuters. 2006-06-14. http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200606/s1663270.htm. 
  5. ^ Tamimi, Azzam (2006-12-19). "Only an end to sanctions can halt Palestine's crisis". London: The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/comment/0,,1975124,00.html. 
  6. ^ Erlanger, Steven (2006-10-04). "U.S. offers plan to strengthen Abbas". International Herald Tribune. http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/10/04/news/jerus.php. 
  7. ^ Israel, US, and Egypt back Fatah's fight against Hamas, The Christian Science Monitor, May 25, 2007
  8. ^ U.S. training Fatah in anti-terror tactics, San Francisco Chronicle, December 14, 2006
  9. ^ Diplomats fear US wants to arm Fatah for 'war on Hamas', The Times, November 18, 2006
  10. ^ Israeli defense official: Fatah arms transfer bolsters forces of peace, Haaretz, December 28, 2006
  11. ^ a b "Hamas coup in Gaza. Volume 13, Issue 5". International Institute for Strategic Studies. June, 2007. http://www.iiss.org/publications/strategic-comments/past-issues/volume-13---2007/volume-13-issue-5/hamas-coup-in-gaza/. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  12. ^ a b The Guardian, 2011 Jan. 25, "Palestine Papers Reveal MI6 Drew up Plan for Crackdown on Hamas," http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/25/palestine-papers-mi6-hamas-crackdown
  13. ^ a b "The Proof Is in the Paper Trail". Vanityfair.com. http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/04/gaza_documents200804. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  14. ^ "Abbas calls for early Palestinian poll". Reuters. 2006-12-16. http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200612/s1813209.htm. 
  15. ^ Hardaker, David (2006-12-17). "Hamas accuses Abbas of launching coup". ABC News. http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200612/s1813233.htm. 
  16. ^ "Over 600 Palestinians killed in internal clashes since 2006". Reuters via Ynet. 2007-06-06. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3409548,00.html. 
  17. ^ "Hamas accuses Fatah over attack". Al Jazeera. 2006-12-15. http://classic-web.archive.org/web/20080314202950/http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/793DD747-A1B7-4BE3-B120-0CF171612495.htm. Retrieved 2006-12-19. 
  18. ^ "Palestinian rivals: Fatah & Hamas". BBC News. 2007-06-17. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5016012.stm. Retrieved January 4, 2010. 
  19. ^ "How Hamas took over the Gaza Strip". BBC News. 2007-06-15. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6748621.stm. Retrieved January 4, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Abbas Dissolves Palestinian Authority Government in Wake of Hamas-Fatah War". Fox News. 2007-06-14. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,282195,00.html. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  21. ^ Levinson, Charles; Matthew Moore (2007-06-14). "Abbas declares state of emergency in Gaza". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/06/14/wgaza614.xml. Retrieved 2007-06-14. 
  22. ^ "Abbas sacks Hamas-led government". BBC News. 2007-06-14. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6754499.stm. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  23. ^ Black, Ian; Tran, Mark (Friday 15 June 2007). "Hamas takes control of Gaza". Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jun/15/israel4. Retrieved 3 June 2010. 
  24. ^ Nathan Brown (2007-06-15). "What Can Abu Mazin Do?". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=18738&prog=zgp&proj=zdrl,zme. Retrieved 2007-06-19. 
  25. ^ "No Alternative to Political Dialogue: PCHR's Position towards the Current Crisis in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian National Authority". Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. 2007-06-18. Archived from the original on June 27, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070627061301/http://www.pchrgaza.ps/files/PressR/English/2007/41-2007.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-19. 
  26. ^ "President Abbas prepares to swear in unelected interim government". Maannews.net. http://maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=23042. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  27. ^ [1], jpost.com
  28. ^ "Hamas 'in full control of Gaza'". BBC News. 2007-06-15. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6755299.stm. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  29. ^ "Fatah gunmen storm Hamas-controlled ministry, parliament building". Hindu.com. 2007-06-16. http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/003200706161550.htm. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  30. ^ Erlanger, Steven (2007-06-21). A Leader of Hamas Warns of West Bank Peril for Fatah. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/21/world/middleeast/21mideast.html. Retrieved 2008-07-14. "Mr. Zahar, the former Palestinian foreign minister, said Hamas would not sit idle if its political rival, Fatah, ...continued to attack Hamas institutions and politicians." 
  31. ^ "Gaza: 4 dead as Hamas, Fatah clan clash". Jerusalem Post. 2007-10-18. http://fr.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1192380585473&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull. 
  32. ^ "One Palestinian killed in internal Gaza fighting". Reuters. 2007-10-21. http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L21678672.htm. 
  33. ^ al-Mughrabi, Nidal (2007-11-12). "Gunfire kills seven at Fatah rally in Gaza". Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/homepageCrisis/idUSL12626820._CH_.2400. 
  34. ^ "Eight dead in Gaza faction clash". BBC News. January 1, 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7166946.stm. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  35. ^ Sudam, Mohamed. "Fatah and Hamas sign reconciliation deal". Uk.reuters.com. http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKL23831120080323. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  36. ^ "6 Die as Palestinian Authority Forces Clash with Hamas." New York Times, June 1, 2009, Ethan Bronner [2]
  37. ^ "Hamas, Fatah 'join Gaza reconciliation talks' (AFP)". Google.com. 2010-02-14. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5giwpuS1Gkek1x2yUIEJtFAFUN4ag. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  38. ^ 'The Real News' YouTube channel - Doha Debates - Fatah vs Hamas debate, uploaded on 26 March 2010, retrieved 28 March 2010
  39. ^ http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2011/05/text-of-hamasfatah-agreement-vagueness.html the full text of the Hamas-Fatah recent agreement, in English
  40. ^ "Hamas and Fatah agree to form caretaker government". Guardian.co.uk. 2011-04-27. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/27/hamas-fatah-agree-government-deal. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  41. ^ Fatah and Hamas Sign Reconciliation Pact, New York Times, May 4, 2011.
  42. ^ Four years of bitter Fatah-Hamas infighting comes to end at Cairo ceremony, Haaretz, May 4, 2011.
  43. ^ Palestinian factions, in Cairo, sign unity accord, Washington Post, May 4, 2011. Accessed May 4, 2011
  44. ^ http://www.haaretz.com/news/international/palestinian-reconciliation-summit-postponed-indefinitely-1.368526

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