Thursday, May 18, 2006

Hamas, police battle in Gaza

Civil war fears are on again in Palestine.

Palestinian police fought gunbattles in Gaza City on Friday with a new Hamas-led security force set up by the Islamist government in defiance of President Mahmoud Abbas.

At least four people were wounded in the first fighting since Hamas deployed the force on Wednesday. Two police, one Hamas member and a gunman from Abbas's
Fatah movement were hurt....

Quick! Can anyone name another country where armed militias are making a bad situation worse?

The 3,000-strong Hamas-backed force, formed under the authority of Interior Minister Saeed Seyam, was deployed in a challenge to the authority of Abbas, whose Fatah movement was defeated by Hamas in elections in January.

In response, Abbas ordered the deployment of a Fatah-loyal police unit. The decision marked the latest step in a deepening power struggle between Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, whose Hamas movement took power in March....

"It seems that the civil war has begun," said one medic, who did not want to give his name. Gunfire echoed as he spoke.

Let's hope not. While some pro-Israeli hawks might see positive things in a divided and distracted Palestine, a collapse of central authority will make dealing with the Palestinians more difficult, and eliminate whatever control the PA has over its more militant factions. Peace talks requires someone in authority to talk to. And that's without getting into the humanitarian disaster a civil war would be.

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