They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Friday, June 22, 2007

Fatah gunmen on rampage in West Bank

Fatah 'moderates' on rampage

For much of the last week, Fatah gunmen in black masks have ruled the streets here, abducting rivals, looting or burning their property, and intimidating elected officials inside the Hamas-run City Hall.

Demoralized by Hamas' military defeat of their comrades in the Gaza Strip, the gunmen are sowing retribution across the West Bank. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah, said Wednesday that the lawlessness was the most pressing problem facing the emergency government he appointed Sunday in the West Bank.

"We have seen chaos here before, but this is different. The police have lost control," said Hafez Shaheen, a Hamas municipal legislator who has abandoned his City Hall office in Nablus, the largest West Bank city and epicenter of the violence. "People are afraid for their lives."

U.S. and Israeli officials, stung by the Islamic movement's takeover in Gaza, have begun to treat the two Palestinian territories as separate entities. They are squeezing Gaza, and have pledged to spend money and diplomatic effort on the West Bank, in hope of turning it into a model new Palestine that can make peace with Israel.

The violence here reflects a complex reality posing more troublesome scenarios.

Most of the attacks have been carried out by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a decentralized Fatah militia that is nominally loyal to Abbas but acts beyond his control. Like Hamas, it is branded by Israel and the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.

The victims of the rampage apparently are unarmed Hamas sympathizers or members of the Islamist group, which enjoys wide popular support in the largely secular West Bank as an alternative to the corrupt rule of the secular Fatah.

Hamas won the mayoral race in Nablus and at least a share of municipal power in five other West Bank cities in elections in 2004 and 2005. Link