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Palestinian Power Struggle Intensifies After Controversial Hamas Appointment


A controversial security appointment has brought tensions between the Hamas-led Palestinian government and the rival Fatah faction to an all time high. A power struggle has emerged between militants and moderates.

The Islamic militant group, Hamas, and the more moderate Fatah party are trading heated accusations, just three weeks after Hamas assumed control of the Palestinian Authority.

Tensions reached an all-time high, after Hamas appointed a top militant to form a new security force to restore law and order. The militant, Jamal Abu Samhadana, is wanted by Israel for deadly attacks on Israelis. He is also believed responsible for an attack on a United States diplomatic convoy in Gaza in 2003 that killed three American security guards.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah, abruptly canceled the appointment, which he described as illegal. But Hamas declared that the appointment would stand, and it accused Mr. Abbas of collaborating with Israel and the United States to topple the new government. That infuriated Fatah loyalists, who held angry protests, and accused Hamas of inciting civil war.

Israel Television's Arab affairs analyst, Oded Granot, says the tensions are part of a power struggle between Mr. Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, and the new Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

"The dispute is over powers, [over] who controls the daily life of the Palestinians," said Mr. Granot. "Abu Mazen wants to assume more and more responsibilities, and [the] Hamas government, who feels the heat of the international community, would like Abu Mazen to give more freedom of action to the Palestinian government."

Mr. Abbas, who was elected separately last year, fears that Hamas' militant ideology of seeking Israel's destruction is leading the Palestinians to international isolation. The U.S. and Europe have already cut off nearly $1 billion in annual aid to the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas is broke.

Mr. Abbas wants to revive the peace process, but Hamas says it was elected on a different platform, namely armed resistance to the Israeli occupation.

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