Thursday, June 14, 2007

Palestinian Split Deepens; Abbas Tries to Oust Premier


JERUSALEM, June 14 — The Palestinian territories seemed headed Thursday to a turbulent political divide. Masked Hamas gunmen took control of the Gaza Strip and the Fatah president dissolved the 3-month-old unity government, declaring a state of emergency and plans for elections."...

With Hamas controlling Gaza, it was not clear that Mr. Abbas had the power to carry out his decrees. A Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, dismissed them. “Prime Minister Haniya remains the head of the government, even if it was dissolved by the president,” Mr. Zuhri said. “In practical terms these decisions are worthless.”

Even Mr. Abbas’s supporters were dubious. “An emergency government would be meaningless here...”

Bystanders were shocked. Ghassan Hashem, 37, a civil servant, said: “I see Iraq here. There is no mercy. We are afraid. See how ferocious this fight was? There is no future for us.”

Islam Shahwan, a spokesman for the Hamas militia, told Hamas radio triumphantly: “The era of justice and Islamic rule has arrived.” ...

In Gaza, Hamas began to settle scores. Its men killed a senior Fatah commander in the north, Samih al-Madhoun, who had vowed on the radio to kill scores of Hamas members. He was captured in an exchange of fire, brought to the house of a Hamas fighter who died in the exchange and killed, Hamas said.

More evident was the lack of Fatah leaders or commanders on the ground....

There was talk both in Mr. Abbas’s headquarters and among worried Palestinians in Gaza about requesting an international force to come to Gaza.

“This is the beginning of the separation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank,” said Mr. Abusada, referring to the two Palestinian territories that were eventually supposed to make up an independent Palestinian state.

“This is the lowest point in our struggle. We Palestinians are writing the final chapters of our national enterprise,” he said.

I can't remember a story quite like this in The Times. Maybe the final, print-published version will be different. Gaza certainly is a leading candidate for hell on earth, but this sounds like the end of the world. If the Palestinians cannot govern themselves, is it time for someone, anyone, to try to save them from themselves? I don't recommend the United States Government.

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