Tensions between recently reconciled rivals Fatah and Hamas, which jointly govern the Palestinian territory, flared up Tuesday amid continuing violence in the region. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused his co-leaders of attempting to sabotage unity efforts – specifically by launching explosions near the homes of several Fatah officials on Friday.
During a rally in Ramallah, the capital of the Fatah-controlled West Bank, Abbas stated, “Who committed this crime? The leadership of the Hamas movement did, and it’s responsible!” Hamas officials weren’t long in responding, calling Abbas’ statements “a web of lies, insults, and misinformation.” The spirited exchange comes on the tenth anniversary of the death of Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat. Fatah reportedly cancelled a commemoration ceremony scheduled to take place in Gaza out of security fears. (One of the explosions targeted a stage erected for the ceremony.)
It’s no surprise that the alliance is splintering. Despite their deep ideological differences and longtime animosity, Hamas and Fatah joined forces out of necessity this spring: the latter was searching for relevance amid waning popularity; the former was facing financial ruin, as relations with its longtime backers in Tehran, Damascus and Cairo cooled. But historic enmity between the two camps quickly bled through. Namely because Hamas has refused to relinquish its control over the Gaza Strip to Fatah-appointed representatives. Though it hasn’t shied away from imploring Fatah leaders to pay the employees on Hamas’ payroll.
In late August, Hamas security forces blocked a Fatah representative appointed to govern a region of Gaza from setting up offices. One month later, Abbas warned that the deal could be on the rocks in a visit to Cairo. Blame sharing has blocked the transport of reconstruction supplies to areas of Gaza destroyed by nearly two months of intense fighting with Israel in July and August. Financial aid remains a contentious issue: Fatah has been reluctant to cover Hamas employees’ salaries out of fear such a move could affect its own funding from the United States and the E.U., both of which consider Hamas to be a terrorist group.
The memorial for Arafat would have been a prime opportunity to cement the faltering alliance, or at least put up a brave front ahead of rumored efforts to obtain international recognition of Palestinian statehood. But for now, relations are at a standstill and neither administration looks strong enough to take power completely.