Battle of Gaza (2007)

Battle of Gaza (2007)

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The Battle of Gaza was a military conflict between Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

 and Fatah
Fatah
Fataḥ is a major Palestinian political party and the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization , a multi-party confederation. In Palestinian politics it is on the left-wing of the spectrum; it is mainly nationalist, although not predominantly socialist. Its official goals are found...

 that took place between June 7 and 15, 2007 in the Gaza Strip
Gaza Strip
thumb|Gaza city skylineThe Gaza Strip lies on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Strip borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the south, east and north. It is about long, and between 6 and 12 kilometres wide, with a total area of...

. After winning Palestinian legislative elections
Palestinian legislative election, 2006
On January 25, 2006, elections were held for the Palestinian Legislative Council , the legislature of the Palestinian National Authority . Notwithstanding the 2005 municipal elections and the January 9, 2005 presidential election, this was the first election to the PLC since 1996; subsequent...

 in 2006, Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

 and Fatah
Fatah
Fataḥ is a major Palestinian political party and the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization , a multi-party confederation. In Palestinian politics it is on the left-wing of the spectrum; it is mainly nationalist, although not predominantly socialist. Its official goals are found...

 formed the Palestinan authority national unity government in 2007, headed by Ismail Haniya
Ismail Haniya
Ismail Haniyeh ; is a senior political leader of Hamas and one of two disputed Prime Ministers of the Palestinian National Authority, the matter being under political and legal dispute. He became Prime Minister after the legislative elections of 2006 which Hamas won...

. In June 2007 Hamas fighters took control of the Gaza Strip and removed Fatah
Fatah
Fataḥ is a major Palestinian political party and the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization , a multi-party confederation. In Palestinian politics it is on the left-wing of the spectrum; it is mainly nationalist, although not predominantly socialist. Its official goals are found...

 officials. The ICRC
International Committee of the Red Cross
The International Committee of the Red Cross is a private humanitarian institution based in Geneva, Switzerland. States parties to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005, have given the ICRC a mandate to protect the victims of international and...

 estimated that at least 118 people were killed and more than 550 wounded during the fighting in the week up to June 15.

Background



Conflict between Fatah
Fatah
Fataḥ is a major Palestinian political party and the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization , a multi-party confederation. In Palestinian politics it is on the left-wing of the spectrum; it is mainly nationalist, although not predominantly socialist. Its official goals are found...

 and Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

 had been simmering since Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections
Palestinian legislative election, 2006
On January 25, 2006, elections were held for the Palestinian Legislative Council , the legislature of the Palestinian National Authority . Notwithstanding the 2005 municipal elections and the January 9, 2005 presidential election, this was the first election to the PLC since 1996; subsequent...

 in January 2006. Upon taking power, Hamas offered Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 a one-year extension of the truce that was in force and announced they would refuse to honor past agreements between the Palestinian government and Israel. As a result, the US and the EU cut off aid to the Gaza Strip and Israel and the Middle East Quartet implemented punitive economic measures against the Gaza Strip. The U.S. and Israel attempted to undermine Hamas and force it from power while strengthening President Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas , also known by the kunya Abu Mazen , has been the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation since 11 November 2004 and became President of the Palestinian National Authority on 15 January 2005 on the Fatah ticket.Elected to serve until 9 January 2009, he unilaterally...

 of Fatah's position.

The major conflict in Gaza surfaced in December 2006 and was centred on Hamas executive force attempts to control Gaza instead of Fatah.

On February 8, 2007 Saudi-sponsored negotiations in Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

 produced agreement on a Palestinian
Palestinian people
The Palestinian people, also referred to as Palestinians or Palestinian Arabs , are an Arabic-speaking people with origins in Palestine. Despite various wars and exoduses, roughly one third of the world's Palestinian population continues to reside in the area encompassing the West Bank, the Gaza...

 national unity government signed by Abbas on behalf of Fatah and Khaled Mashal
Khaled Mashal
Khaled Mashal, also known as Khaled Mashaal, Khaled Meshaal, and Khalid Mish'al, has been the main leader of Hamas since the assassination of Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi in 2004. In addition, Mashal heads the Syrian branch of the political bureau of Hamas.Mashal was born in Silwad, a village north of...

 on behalf of Hamas. The new government was called on to achieve Palestinian national goals as approved by the Palestine National Council, the clauses of the Basic Law
Basic Law
The term basic law is used in some places as an alternative to "constitution", implying it is a temporary but necessary measure without formal enactment of constitution. A basic law is either a codified constitution, or in countries with uncodified constitutions, a law given to have constitution...

 and the National Reconciliation Document (the "Prisoners' Document") as well as the decisions of the Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 summit.

In March 2007, the Palestinian Legislative Council
Palestinian Legislative Council
The Palestinian Legislative Council, the legislature of the Palestinian Authority, is a unicameral body with 132 members, elected from 16 electoral districts in the West Bank and Gaza...

 established a national unity government, with 83 representatives voting in favor and three against. Government ministers were sworn in by Abu Mazen, the chairman on the Palestinian Authority
Palestinian National Authority
The Palestinian Authority is the administrative organization established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip...

, at a ceremony held simultaneously in Gaza and Ramallah
Ramallah
Ramallah is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank located 10 kilometers north of Jerusalem, adjacent to al-Bireh. It currently serves as the de facto administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority...

. In June that year, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip from the national unity government after forcing out Fatah.

US and Israeli Involvement


In May 2007, US officials promised to continue funding a $84 million aid package aimed at improving the fighting ability of the Abbas Presidential Guard loyal to Fatah. Israel, too, allowed light arms to flow to members of the Presidential Guard. The US insisted that all of its aid to the Presidential Guard is "nonlethal," consisting of training, uniforms, and supplies, as well as paying for better infrastructure at Gaza's borders. "The situation has gotten to be quite dire in Gaza, we have a situation of lawlessness and outright chaos," he said. "This chaotic situation is why the [US] is focused on [helping] the legal, legitimate security forces in our effort to reestablish law and order.", said Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, who was overseeing the US program.

In April 2008 the journalist David Rose reproduced internal US documents in Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair (magazine)
Vanity Fair is a magazine of pop culture, fashion, and current affairs published by Condé Nast. The present Vanity Fair has been published since 1983 and there have been editions for four European countries as well as the U.S. edition. This revived the title which had ceased publication in 1935...

 magazine which he said proved that the United States collaborated with the Palestinian Authority and Israel to attempt the violent overthrow of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and that Hamas pre-empted the coup. Rose quotes David Wurmser
David Wurmser
David Wurmser is a Swiss-born American foreign policy specialist. He served as Middle East Adviser to former US Vice President Dick Cheney, as special assistant to John R. Bolton at the State Department and as a research fellow on the Middle East at the American Enterprise Institute . He served in...

, who served as Vice President Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney
Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney served as the 46th Vice President of the United States , under George W. Bush....

’s chief Middle East adviser until his resignation in July 2007, which was a month after the developments described here.

Wurmser accuses the Bush administration of “engaging in a dirty war in an effort to provide a corrupt dictatorship [led by Abbas] with victory.” He believes that Hamas had no intention of taking Gaza until Fatah forced its hand. “It looks to me that what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen,” Wurmser says.


The botched plan has rendered the dream of Middle East peace more remote than ever, but what really galls neocons such as Wurmser is the hypocrisy it exposed. “There is a stunning disconnect between the president’s call for Middle East democracy and this policy,” he says. “It directly contradicts it.”

Attacks


After the re-ignition of the Fatah-Hamas conflict
Fatah-Hamas conflict
The Fatah–Hamas conflict , also referred to as the Palestinian Civil War , and the Conflict of Brothers , i.e...

 on June 10, Hamas militants seized several Fatah members and threw one of them, Mohammed Sweirki, an officer in the elite Palestinian Presidential Guard, off the top of the tallest building in Gaza, a 15-story apartment building. In retaliation, Fatah militants attacked and killed the imam
Imam
An imam is an Islamic leadership position, often the worship leader of a mosque and the Muslim community. Similar to spiritual leaders, the imam is the one who leads Islamic worship services. More often, the community turns to the mosque imam if they have a religious question...

 of the city's Great Mosque
Great Mosque of Gaza
The Great Mosque of Gaza also known as the Great Omari Mosque is the largest and oldest mosque in the Gaza Strip, located in Gaza's old city....

, Mohammed al-Rifati. They also opened fire on the home of Prime Minister Ismail Haniya
Ismail Haniya
Ismail Haniyeh ; is a senior political leader of Hamas and one of two disputed Prime Ministers of the Palestinian National Authority, the matter being under political and legal dispute. He became Prime Minister after the legislative elections of 2006 which Hamas won...

. Just before midnight, a Hamas militant was thrown off a 12-story building.,

On June 11, the residences of both Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah's leader and the Palestinian Authority president
President of the Palestinian National Authority
The President of the Palestinian National Authority is the highest-ranking political position in the Palestinian National Authority ....

, and of then-Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority
The Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority is the head of government of the Palestinian Authority government.The Prime Minister's Office was created in 2003 to manage day-to-day activities of the Palestinian government. The position was created because both Israel and the United...

 Ismail Haniya, of Hamas, were targeted with gun and shell fire.

On June 12, Hamas began attacking posts held by their Fatah faction rivals. Hundreds of Hamas fighters had moved on the positions after giving their occupants two hours to leave. A major Fatah base in the northern town of Jabaliya fell to Hamas fighters, witnesses told AFP news agency. Heavy fighting also raged around the main Fatah headquarters in Gaza City, with Hamas militants attacking with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons.

On June 13, Hamas seized the headquarters of the Fatah-controlled National Security Forces in northern Gaza. Gunmen fought for control of high-rise buildings serving as sniper positions and Hamas said it had bulldozed a Fatah outpost controlling Gaza's main north-south road. Also on that day, an explosion wrecked the Khan Younis headquarters of the Fatah-linked Preventive Security Service
Preventive Security Service
The Preventive Security Force is the official security apparatus of the Palestinian National Authority. It was established in 1994 by President Yasser Arafat in accordance with the Oslo Accords....

, killing five people.

On June 14, Hamas gunmen completed the takeover of the central building of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service's headquarters in the Gaza Strip. The Hamas members took over vehicles and weapons in the compound, which was considered the Palestinian Authority's main symbol in the Strip. The Preventive Security Service cooperated with Israel in the past, and has been armed by the United States. It is identified with Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan
Mohammed Dahlan
Mohammed Dahlan born on September 29, 1961 in Khan Younis Refugee Camp, Khan Younis, Gaza Strip also known by the kunya or nom de guerre Abu Fadi is a Palestinian politician, the former leader of Fatah in Gaza...

, who has become a hated figure by the Islamists in Gaza. The gunmen who entered the compound held a prayer there and waved a flag on the building's rooftop. At least 10 people were killed. Hamas TV broadcast a display of weapons inside the building, as well as jeeps, mortar
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

 shells and bulletproof vest
Bulletproof vest
A ballistic vest, bulletproof vest or bullet-resistant vest is an item of personal armor that helps absorb the impact from firearm-fired projectiles and shrapnel from explosions, and is worn on the torso...

s seized in the compound, which according to Hamas, were smuggled to Fatah by Israel and the Americans in the past few months through the border with Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

.

Hamas members held a prayer in the compound, which they referred to as the "heresy compound." Hamas also changed the name of the neighborhood where the building is located from "Tel al-Hawa
Tel al-Hawa
Tel al-Hawa or Tel al-Islam is a neighborhood in the southern part of the Palestinian city of Gaza. Founded by the Palestinian National Authority in the late 1990s, Tel al-Hawa is one of the more affluent areas of the city...

" to "Tel al-Islam."

On the afternoon of June 14, the Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

 reported an explosion that rocked Gaza City. According to Fatah officials, security forces withdrew from their post and blew it up in order to not let Hamas take it over. The security forces afterwards repositioned to another location. Later on June 14, Hamas also took control of the southern Gaza Strip city Rafah
Rafah
Rafah , also known as Rafiah, is a Palestinian city in the southern Gaza Strip. Located south of Gaza, Rafah's population of 71,003 is overwhelmingly made up of Palestinian refugees. Rafah camp and Tall as-Sultan form separate localities. Rafah is the district capital of the Rafah Governorate...

 which lies near an already closed border crossing with Egypt, which is monitored by Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i, Palestinian and European Union security forces. The EU staff had, at that time, already been relocated to the Israeli city of Ashkelon
Ashkelon
Ashkelon is a coastal city in the South District of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, south of Tel Aviv, and north of the border with the Gaza Strip. The ancient seaport of Ashkelon dates back to the Neolithic Age...

 for safety reasons. On June 14 Abbas dissolved the Palestinian-Hamas unity government, on June 15, Hamas completed the control over Gaza.

Violations of international law



Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 accused both sides with violations of international humanitarian law, in some cases amounting to war crimes. The accusations include the targeting and killing of civilians, public executions of political opponents and captives, throwing prisoners off high-rise apartment buildings, fighting in hospitals, and shooting from a jeep marked with "TV" insignias. The International Committee of the Red Cross has denounced attacks in and around two hospitals in the northern part of the Gaza strip.

During the fighting several incidents of looting took place: a crowd took furniture, wall tiles and personal belongings from the villa of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat
Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini , popularly known as Yasser Arafat or by his kunya Abu Ammar , was a Palestinian leader and a Laureate of the Nobel Prize. He was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization , President of the Palestinian National Authority...

; the home of former Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan
Mohammed Dahlan
Mohammed Dahlan born on September 29, 1961 in Khan Younis Refugee Camp, Khan Younis, Gaza Strip also known by the kunya or nom de guerre Abu Fadi is a Palestinian politician, the former leader of Fatah in Gaza...

 was also looted: "An AFP correspondent witnessed dozens of Palestinians taking everything they could carry from Dahlan's villa - furniture, pot plants and even the kitchen sink, complete with plumbing fixtures such as taps,"; and at the Muntada, Abbas's seafront presidential compound, witnesses reported seeing Hamas fighters remove computers, documents and guns.

Civilian consequences


During the fighting, 6,000 Palestinians were stranded on the Egyptian side of the border at Rafah
Rafah
Rafah , also known as Rafiah, is a Palestinian city in the southern Gaza Strip. Located south of Gaza, Rafah's population of 71,003 is overwhelmingly made up of Palestinian refugees. Rafah camp and Tall as-Sultan form separate localities. Rafah is the district capital of the Rafah Governorate...

. The border was closed after it was shelled from the Gaza Strip side. Israeli and Egyptian diplomats asked Hamas to allow those stranded to use the Kerem Shalom
Kerem Shalom
Kerem Shalom is a kibbutz in the Eshkol Regional Council and a border crossing near the meeting of the Gaza Strip-Israel-Egypt borders.- Kibbutz :The kibbutz was founded in 1966 adjacent to the triborder area by members of Hashomer Hatzair...

 crossing to return home but Hamas declined the request. According to Israeli officials, Hamas stated they would attack the crossing if it was opened. The border would not reopen until the breach of the Gaza-Egypt border in 2008.

Blockade


After the takeover, Israel and Egypt began a blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Political consequences



On June 14, 2007 Palestinian President
President of the Palestinian National Authority
The President of the Palestinian National Authority is the highest-ranking political position in the Palestinian National Authority ....

 Mahmoud Abbas announced the dissolution
Dissolution of parliament
In parliamentary systems, a dissolution of parliament is the dispersal of a legislature at the call of an election.Usually there is a maximum length of a legislature, and a dissolution must happen before the maximum time...

 of the current unity government and the declaration of a state of emergency
State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...

. Palestinian Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority
The Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority is the head of government of the Palestinian Authority government.The Prime Minister's Office was created in 2003 to manage day-to-day activities of the Palestinian government. The position was created because both Israel and the United...

 Ismail Haniya
Ismail Haniya
Ismail Haniyeh ; is a senior political leader of Hamas and one of two disputed Prime Ministers of the Palestinian National Authority, the matter being under political and legal dispute. He became Prime Minister after the legislative elections of 2006 which Hamas won...

 was dismissed, and Abbas rules Gaza and the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

 by presidential decree. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri
Sami Abu Zuhri
Sami Abu Zuhri is a senior spokesman for the Palestinian political party Hamas. Zuhri, a relatively unknown member of Hamas, gained notoriety on May 19, 2006, when Palestinian security and customs officials discovered he had 640,000 euros on his person; another report claimed he held a larger sum...

 responded by declaring that President Abbas' decision was "in practical terms...worthless", asserting that Mr. Haniya "remains the head of the government even if it was dissolved by the president". Experts in Palestinian law and independent members of the PLC have questioned the legality of the Fayyad government. According to the Palestinian Basic Law, the President can dismiss the Prime Minister but the dismissed government continues to function as a caretaker government until a new government is formed and receives a vote of confidence from an absolute majority of the Palestinian Legislative Council
Palestinian Legislative Council
The Palestinian Legislative Council, the legislature of the Palestinian Authority, is a unicameral body with 132 members, elected from 16 electoral districts in the West Bank and Gaza...

. To date, the Hamas-majority PLC has yet to meet and confirm the Fayyad government.

As a result of the conflict, the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority
Palestinian National Authority
The Palestinian Authority is the administrative organization established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip...

 is de facto divided into two entities: the Hamas-controlled government of the Gaza Strip
Governance of the Gaza Strip
The Gaza Strip is controlled by Hamas after Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006 and ousted Fatah officials as part of the Battle of Gaza . Hamas' political and military rival, Fatah, controls the West Bank. Both regimes regard themselves as the sole legitimate...

, and the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

, governed by the Palestinian National Authority
Palestinian National Authority
The Palestinian Authority is the administrative organization established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip...

.

International consequences


On June 18, key international powers, including the EU, US and Israel showed public support for the new administration without Hamas. The EU and US normalized the tie to the Palestinian National Authority and resumed direct aid. Israel announced it would return frozen tax revenue of about USD800m to the new administration.

In 2010 in response to the Goldstone report, Hamas was said to have apologized to Israel for killing civilians, though later a denial was issued. After the apology, Fatah spokesman Ahmad 'Assaf commented that Hamas ""apologizes to Israel for killing Israeli civilians, but at the same time refuses to apologize to the Palestinian people for crimes it has committed against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, for killing hundreds of Fatah members and for injuring hundreds of other Palestinians... during and after the blood-soaked Gaza coup."

Religious consequences


A Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Fouzi Barhoum, said earlier that Hamas was imposing Islamic law in Gaza but this was denied by exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.

Sheik Abu Saqer, leader of Jihadia Salafiya, an Islamic outreach movement that recently announced the opening of a "military wing" to enforce Muslim law in Gaza. "I expect our Christian neighbors to understand the new Hamas rule means real changes. They must be ready for Islamic rule if they want to live in peace in Gaza." The sole Christian bookstore in Gaza was attacked and the owner murdered.

Military consequences


Hamas has captured thousands of small arms and eight armored combat vehicles supplied by the United States, Egypt, and Jordan to the Palestinian Authority.

According to Muhammad Abdel-El of the Hamas-allied Popular Resistance Committees
Popular Resistance Committees
The Popular Resistance Committees are a coalition of various armed Palestinian factions that oppose the conciliatory approach adopted by the Palestinian Authority and Fatah towards Israel...

, Hamas and its allies have captured quantities of foreign intelligence, including CIA files. He is quoted as saying that they are "more important than all the American weapons we obtained the last two days." Abu Abdullah of Hamas' "military wing", the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades
Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades is the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist fundamentalist socio-political organisation Hamas. Created in 1992, under the direction of Yahya Ayyash, the primary objective of the group was to build a coherent military organisation to support the goals of...

, claims Hamas will make portions of the documents public, in a stated attempt to expose covert relations between the United States and "traitor" Arab countries.

While Hamas collected most of the 15,000 weapons registered to the former security forces, it failed to collect more than a fraction of the 400,000 weapons that are in the hands of various clans, and said that it would not touch weapons used for fighting Israel, only those that might be used against Hamas.

External links