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Fatah broadcast outlets in Gaza silenced

BBC Monitoring

Analysis by Peter Feuilherade of BBC Monitoring on 15 June

    After five days of intense fighting against their Fatah rivals, Hamas forces appeared to be in complete control over the Gaza Strip on 15 June.

    Hamas Prime Minister Isma'il Haniyah said he would ignore a decree from Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas of Fatah sacking the three-month-old Hamas-Fatah "unity government" and declaring a state of emergency.

    Fatah, meanwhile, holds the larger West Bank.

    As political divisions hardened in the Palestinian territories, the battle to assert control over radio and TV outlets also intensified.

Fatah-linked stations hit

    On 14 June, Hamas fighters attacked several Fatah-linked broadcast outlets in Gaza.

    The Fatah-allied Voice of Palestine radio premises in Gaza City were on fire after a Hamas attack, Palestine TV reported, although the station continued to broadcast from its facilities in Ramallah, the political capital of the West Bank.

    Two other Fatah-affiliated radio stations in Gaza, Al-Hurriya (Freedom) and Al-Shabab (Youth), stopped broadcasting on the 14th - one was reportedly destroyed by a Hamas bomb - after Hamas threatened to blow up "all radio and TV stations belonging to collaborators," the Israeli left-of-centre independent daily newspaper Ha'aretz reported.

    By Friday 15 June Fatah had lost its last TV and radio broadcasting outlets in the Gaza Strip.

    According to the independent Bethlehem-based Ma'an News Agency, "Hamas's control over the Gaza Strip is evident as three Fatah-affiliated radio stations have ceased transmission. Palestine TV also halted its transmission, after Hamas gunmen took control of it when they occupied the neighbouring presidential headquarters in Gaza City."

    On 14 June, the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa Satellite TV posted a "breaking news" caption that said: "Palestine Satellite Television employees in Gaza flee station; station now transmitting from Ramallah."

    Reports on the 14th that the Fatah authorities in the West Bank had ordered the stopping of transmissions of Al-Aqsa Satellite TV, which has facilities in Ramallah as well as its headquarters in Gaza, were later denied by Palestinian Minister of Information Mustafa Barghuthi.

Pro-Hamas TV attacks Fatah leaders

    On 14 June Al-Aqsa TV repeatedly showed footage of President Abbas and other prominent Fatah figures meeting and, in some instances, embracing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and senior Israeli officials. These scenes were interspersed with images of dead Palestinian adults and children, and of gunmen swarming through the streets.

    A song repeated continuously throughout the clip, apparently addressing Fatah leaders and gunmen, included the lyrics: "O creators of discord, unhand the homeland; get off our backs, we want to live, we have had enough crises. Why do you fear unity? Why do you dread unity? You will be exposed, you will be seen; everyone has had enough of you. Who sent you to my country? Who incited you against the people? You are trading in people's blood. Will we ever hear the end of it with you?"

    Meanwhile, Israeli newspapers on 15 June, including Ha'aretz and top-selling Yediot Aharonot, as well as Israeli public radio, were referring for the second day in a row to two Palestinian entities - "Hamastan" in Gaza and "Fatahstan" or "Fatahland" in the West Bank.

Who runs what

    The Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) runs Palestine TV, as well as the Voice of Palestine radio and the official Wafa news agency. These official outlets had been under the control of the Information Ministry, but following the victory of the Hamas movement in the January 2006 legislative elections, President Abbas placed them under his jurisdiction in February 2006. This was perceived as an attempt to prevent Hamas from taking control over the official Palestinian media.

    These official outlets, operating from Ramallah in the West Bank, remain loyal to Fatah.

    In Gaza, meanwhile, Hamas operates Al-Aqsa TV (launched in January 2006) as well as Voice of Al-Aqsa, a radio station which has been on the air since June 2003.

    There are also more than 70 independently owned local TV and radio stations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    Source: BBC Monitoring research 15 Jun 07

 

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