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TV channels hit as Palestinians edge towards civil war

BBC Monitoring

Analysis by Amani Soliman of BBC Monitoring on 12 June,

    The fighting between the warring factions of Hamas and Fatah in the Palestinian territories has reached new heights verging on a civil war.

    Hamas' armed wing threatened on 12 June to storm the security headquarters of their rival Fatah faction in Gaza City unless they were evacuated immediately.

Power struggle

    The gunfights reflect a raging power struggle between the Islamic movement of Hamas and secular Fatah, threatening the partnership in their three-month-old unity government.

    In fresh flare-ups in Gaza, gunmen fired at the home of Prime Minister Isma'il Haniyah of Hamas and the office of President Mahmud Abbas of Fatah, hurting no one.

Attacks on TV channels

    The violence was played out in the media as well. Earlier on 12 June, Presidential Guards of President Abbas stormed the Ramallah bureau of Hamas' Al-Aqsa television in the West Bank.

    The guards seized equipment from the offices of the channel in a raid that was seen as the first clear sign of factional conflict in the West Bank since the fighting between Fatah and Hamas broke out in the Gaza Strip last week. The Fatah security guards also seized two employees of Al-Aqsa TV, according to the channel itself.

    However, the channel remained on air, as it continued broadcasting from its headquarters in Gaza, where Hamas has its main power base.

    In a breaking news caption on the morning of 12 June, Al-Aqsa TV accused "the Fatah-loyal Palestinian security of using Israeli reconnaissance planes' footage in hitting their targets".

    Abbas' aides denied the Presidential Guard was involved in the storming of the channel.

    Nabil Abu Rdeneh, an aide to President Abbas, said no end was in sight. "There's no taste for a cease-fire right now," he told the Associated Press by telephone, blaming Hamas.

    But, according to news reports, Fatah gunmen said they would target Hamas leaders in the West Bank unless Hamas brings to an end its attacks on Fatah figures in Gaza.

    This came in response to claims that the Gaza offices of the pro-Fatah Palestine TV channel were attacked. According to Al-Hayat al-Jadida daily on 12 June, "Gunmen broke into an official Palestinian TV channel kidnapping one of its technicians and setting the channel on fire."

    A Reuters report said Hamas radio stations have taken to openly describing Abbas as a collaborator comparing him to General Antione Lahd, who once commanded Israel's proxy army in south Lebanon. A Fatah radio station accused Hamas of following orders from Iran.

    Palestinian Minister of Information Mustapha al-Barghuti told Ma'an News Agency: "I appeal to all media outlets to stop the incitement campaigns and inflammatory tone immediately and concentrate instead on the protection of national unity."

    Until now Ramallah, the main administrative centre for the Palestinian territories has been lightly affected by the violence that has killed, according to Reuters, more than 600 people since Hamas won a parliamentary election in January 2006.

Websites and radio

    Internet sites and text messages were used by both groups, to call for the execution of the other side's leaders. Both sides have used these media outlets to describe the fighting as "all-out civil war".

    A Hamas website described the attack on the home of Prime Minister Isma'il Haniyah on 12 June as an assassination attempt.

    Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum accused Fatah of targeting Palestinian institutions to bring down Hamas. "They crossed all the red lines," he said of Fatah.

    The head of the Egyptian security delegation, Burhan Hamad, who has been trying to negotiate a truce, told Palestinian TV on 12 June that he would "call the Palestinian people out into the streets to protest if the two rivals did not agree to stand down".

    The two groups have been locked in a violent struggle for power since Hamas defeated Fatah in legislative elections, ending four decades of Fatah dominance.

    They formed a unity government in March 2007 in an effort to curb the internal fighting, but the violence resumed in mid-May over an unresolved dispute over who controls the powerful security forces.

    Source: BBC Monitoring research, 12 Jun 07



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