Battle of Gaza (2007)


Battle of Gaza (2007)

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Gaza
partof=the Fatah-Hamas conflict
date=June 7 2007 – June 15 2007


caption=Fatah fighters paraded by Hamas through Gaza City after their surrender on June 14, 2007
place=Gaza Strip
casus=Fights between Hamas and Fatah over Gaza
territory=Hamas takes over the Gaza Strip
result= Hamas victory
combatant1=
combatant2= Fatah
strength1=
strength2=
casualties1=
casualties2=
casualties3=120 combatants
41 non-combatants [ [http://www.pchrgaza.org/files/PressR/English/2007/news/54-2007.html Palestinian Center for Human Rights ] ]
including 2 UN personnel [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6748811.stm Hamas battles for control of Gaza] , BBC News Online, 13 June, 2007.]
The Battle of Gaza ( _ar. معركة غزّة) was a military conflict between Hamas and Fatah which took place between June 7 and June 15, 2007 in the Gaza Strip. It resulted in Hamas remaining in control of the Gaza Strip after forcing out Fatah. The ICRC estimated that over 550 people were wounded and at least 118 killed during the fighting in the week up to 15 June. [ [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/fromthefield/220224/025f24b73a37ef712ad576eb84b22e84.htm Gaza-Westbank – ICRC Bulletin No. 22 / 2007] , AlertNet, accessed 16 June, 2007.]

Background

Conflict between Fatah and Hamas had been simmering since Hamas won the legislature elections in January 2006. The U.S. and Israel attempted to undermine the democratically elected Hamas [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/14/international/middleeast/14mideast.html?_r=1&ei=5094&en=d28cff5caa1702fa&hp=&ex=1139979600&partner=homepage&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin U.S. and Israelis Are Said to Talk of Hamas Ouster.] "recognize Israel's right to exist, forswear violence and accept previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements ... or face isolation and collapse." Verified 14 Nov 2007.] while strengthening President Mahmoud Abbas's position and forcing Hamas from power. The U.S., Egypt, and Israel also armed and trained Fatah for a possible 'War' with Hamas. [ [http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0525/p07s02-wome.html Israel, US, and Egypt back Fatah's fight against Hamas] ,The Christian Science Monitor, 25 May, 2007 ] [ [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/12/14/MNGIPMV3N61.DTL U.S. training Fatah in anti-terror tactics] , San Francisco Chronicle, 14 December, 2006] [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article640747.ece Diplomats fear US wants to arm Fatah for 'war on Hamas'] , The Times Online, 18 November, 2006] [ [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/806603.html Israeli defense official: Fatah arms transfer bolsters forces of peace] , Haaretz, 28 December,2006]

The major conflict in Gaza surfaced in December 2006 and was centered on Hamas executive force attempts to control Gaza instead of the Palestinian police [http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2007/01/07/abbas_outlaws_hamass_paramilitary_executive_force/]

Attacks

After the re-ignition of the Fatah-Hamas conflict on June 10, Hamas militants seized several Fatah members and threw one of them, Mohammed Sweirki, an officer in the elite Palestinian Presidential Guard, off the top of the tallest building in Gaza, a 15-story apartment building. In retaliation, Fatah militants attacked and killed the imam of the city's largest mosque, Mohammed al-Rifati. They also opened fire on the home of Prime Minister Ismail Haniya. Just before midnight, a Hamas militant was thrown off a 12-story building. [ [http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21890067-601,00.html Article] in The Australian, [http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/06/10/israel.palestinians.ap/index.html?eref=rss_topstories CNN article] ]

On June 11, the residences of both Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah's leader and the Palestinian Authority president, and of then-Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, of Hamas, were targeted with gun and shell fire. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6744713.stm Hamas launches new Gaza attacks] , BBC News Online, 12 June, 2007.]

On June 12, Hamas began attacking posts held by their Fatah faction rivals. Hundreds of Hamas fighters had moved on the positions after giving their occupants two hours to leave.Fact|date=July 2007 A major Fatah base in the northern town of Jabaliya fell to Hamas fighters, witnesses told AFP news agency. Heavy fighting also raged around the main Fatah headquarters in Gaza City, with Hamas militants attacking with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons.

On June 13, Hamas seized the headquarters of the Fatah-controlled National Security Forces in northern Gaza. Gunmen fought for control of high-rise buildings serving as sniper positions and Hamas said it had bulldozed a Fatah outpost controlling Gaza's main north-south road. Also on that day, an explosion wrecked the Khan Younis headquarters of the Fatah-linked Preventive Security Service, killing five people.

On June 14, Hamas gunmen completed the takeover of the central building of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service's headquarters in the Gaza Strip. The Hamas members took over vehicles and weapons in the compound, which was considered the Palestinian Authority's main symbol in the Strip. The Preventive Security Service cooperated with Israel in the past, and has been armed by the United States. [http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2104476,00.html A pyrrhic victory] , The Guardian, 16 June, 2007.] It is identified with Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan, who has become a hated figure by the Islamists in Gaza. The gunmen who entered the compound held a prayer there and waved a flag on the building's rooftop. At least 10 people were killed. Hamas TV broadcast a display of weapons inside the building, as well as jeeps, mortar shells and bulletproof vests seized in the compound, which according to Hamas, were smuggled to Fatah by Israel and the Americans in the past few months through the border with Egypt. [http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3412813,00.html We'll execute Fatah leaders] , Israel News, 14 June, 2007.]

Hamas members held a prayer in the compound, which they referred to as the "heresy compound." Hamas also changed the name of the neighborhood where the building is located from "Tel al-Hawa" to "Tel al-Islam."

On the afternoon of June 14, the Associated Press reported an explosion that rocked Gaza City. According to Fatah officials, security forces withdrew from their post and blew it up in order to not let Hamas take it over. The security forces afterwards repositioned to another location. Later on June 14, Hamas also took control of the southern Gaza Strip city Rafah which lies near an, already closed, border crossing with Egypt, which is monitored by Israeli, Palestinian and European Union security forces. The EU staff had, at that time, already been relocated to the Israeli city of Ashkelon for safety reasons. [ [http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/06/14/gaza/index.html Update] , cnn.com.] On June 14th Abbas dissolved the Palestinian-Hamas unity government, on June 15th, Hamas completed the control over Gaza. [http://www.debka.com/article.php?aid=1282]

Violations of international law

Human Rights Watch accused both sides with violations of international humanitarian law, in some cases amounting to war crimes. [ [http://bbsnews.net/article.php/20070614181934128 Armed Palestinian Groups Commit Grave Crimes] , HRW via BBSNews, New York, June 14, 2007.] The accusations include the targeting and killing of civilians, public executions of political opponents and captives, throwing prisoners off high-rise apartment buildings, fighting in hospitals, and shooting from a jeep marked with "TV" insignias. The International Committee of the Red Cross has denounced attacks in and around two hospitals in the northern part of the Gaza strip. [ [http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2007/s1950580.htm Hospitals offer no safety in Gaza strip] , ABC News, 13 June, 2007.]

During the fighting several incidents of looting took place: a crowd took furniture, wall tiles and personal belongings from the villa of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat; [ [http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3413510,00.html Crowd loots Gaza home of Arafat] , Ali Waked and Reuters, 16 June, 2007.] the home of former Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan was also looted: "An AFP correspondent witnessed dozens of Palestinians taking everything they could carry from Dahlan's villa - furniture, pot plants and even the kitchen sink, complete with plumbing fixtures such as taps,"; [http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=3&art_id=nw20070615120441298C533421 Hamas goes on Gaza looting spree] , IOL, 15 June, 2007.] and at the Muntada, Abbas's seafront presidential compound, witnesses reported seeing Hamas fighters remove computers, documents and guns.

Aftermath

Political consequences

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the dissolution of the current unity government and the declaration of a state of emergency.cite news |title=Abbas Dissolves Palestinian Authority Government in Wake of Hamas-Fatah War |url=http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,282195,00.html |date= 2007-06-14 |accessdate=2007-06-14 ] cite news |first=Charles |last=Levinson |coauthors= Matthew Moore|title=Abbas declares state of emergency in Gaza |url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/06/14/wgaza614.xml |date= 2007-06-14 |accessdate=2007-06-14 ] Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya was dismissed, and Abbas rules Gaza and the West Bank by presidential decree. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded by declaring that President Abbas' decision was "in practical terms...worthless", asserting that Mr. Haniya "remains the head of the government even if it was dissolved by the president".cite news |title=Abbas sacks Hamas-led government |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6754499.stm |date= 2007-06-14 |accessdate=2007-06-14 ]

As a result of the conflict, the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority is "de facto" divided into two entities: the government of the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, governed by the Palestinian National Authority.Fact|date=July 2007

On 18 June, key international powers, including the EU, US and Israel showed public support for the new administration without Hamas. The EU and US normalized the tie to the Palestinian National Authority and resumed direct aid. Israel announced it would return frozen tax revenue of about USD800m to the new administration. cite news |title=Key powers back Abbas government |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6764541.stm |date=2007-06-18 |accessdate=2007-06-18]

During the fighting, 6,000 Palestinians fled across the Egyptian border. They have been stranded on the Egyptian side of Rafah there since Hamas took power and cannot return to the Gaza Strip. Israeli and Egyptian diplomats worked to convince Hamas to allow these Palestinians to peacefully use the Kerem Shalom crossing to return home. As of July 5, 2007, according to Israeli officials, Hamas insisted that if the crossing is opened they would attack the crossing with mortars and gunfire, even at the price of killing thousands of Palestinians.Katz, Yaakov. [http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1183459198627&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull "Hamas threats keep crossing closed."] "Jerusalem Post". 5 July 2007. 7 July 2007.] The border would not reopen until the breach of the Gaza-Egypt border in 2008.

Religious consequences

A Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Fouzi Barhoum, said earlier that Hamas was imposing Islamic law in Gaza but this was denied by exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. [ [http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/06/14/gaza/ Hamas controls Gaza, says it will stay in power] ]

Sheik Abu Saqer, leader of Jihadia Salafiya, an Islamic outreach movement that recently announced the opening of a "military wing" to enforce Muslim law in Gaza. "I expect our Christian neighbors to understand the new Hamas rule means real changes. They must be ready for Islamic rule if they want to live in peace in Gaza." [ [http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3414753,00.html 'Christians must accept Islamic rule' - Israel News, Ynetnews ] ] The warning comes two days after a church and Christian school in Gaza were attacked following the seizure of power in the territory by Hamas. Since the in initial take-over of Gaza by Hamas forces there have been more documented cases of attacks on Christians [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/919567.html] .

Military consequences

Hamas has captured thousands of small arms and eight armored combat vehicles supplied by the United States, [ [http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=56139 Hamas seizes U.S. armored personnel carriers] World Net Daily, 12 June, 2007. Retrieved on 16 June, 2007.] Egypt, and Jordan [ [http://www.menewsline.com/stories/2007/june/06_15_1.html Hamas seizes US-financed weapons, equipment] , Middle East Newsline, 14 June, 2007.] to the Palestinian Authority.

According to Muhammad Abdel-El of the Hamas-allied Popular Resistance Committees, Hamas and its allies have captured quantities of foreign intelligence, including CIA files. He is quoted as saying that they are "more important than all the American weapons we obtained the last two days." Abu Abdullah of Hamas' "military wing", the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, claims Hamas will make portions of the documents public, in a stated attempt to expose covert relations between the United States and "traitor" Arab countries. [ [http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=56174 Terrorists claim CIA files seized] , World Net Daily, 14 June, 2007. Retrieved 18 June, 2007]

While Hamas collected most of the 15,000 weapons registered to the former security forces, it failed to collect more than a fraction of the 400,000 weapons that are in the hands of various clans, and said that it would not touch weapons used for fighting Israel, only those that might be used against Hamas. [cite news| url=http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/873736.html| title=Few Gazans turn in weapons as Hamas deadline for arms collection expires| author=Associated Press| publisher=Haaretz| date=21 June, 2007]

Notes

External links

* [http://www.google.co.uk/gwt/n?u=http%3A%2F%2Fnews.bbc.co.uk%2F2%2Fhi%2Fmiddle_east%2F6729175.stm&hl=en-GB&mrestrict=xhtml&q=june+8+2007++hamas+fatah&source=m&site=search June 7 2007, Fatah offical killed, truce broken]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/6752269.stm In pictures: Hamas takes Gaza (BBC)]


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