Mel Frykberg
The Middle East Times
July 17, 2008 - 3:24pm

During the last few weeks Israeli troops have raided and closed down mosques, medical centers, charities, soup kitchens and shopping malls in Nablus, confiscating computers and buses, and causing extensive damage, as they target Hamas-linked institutions which they claim are "supporting terrorism," in a bid to stem the growing influence the Islamic organization has over the West Bank.

Not only has this move failed to stem the enthusiasm and empathy many Palestinians have for Hamas, and the support it provides for disadvantaged Palestinians; but it also appears to be backfiring with the moderate and pro-Western Palestinian Authority (PA) and in the process, narrowing the gap, however minutely, between the PA and Hamas.

In an act of solidarity, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad paid a visit to the shopping mall and encouraged shop owners and business managers in the center to reopen their shops despite threats from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) which stated it would shortly take over ownership.

Business owners and staff were warned by the Israelis that anybody who reopened their stores faces five-years in prison and stiff fines.

Fayyad also sent a letter of complaint to the U.S. security coordinator General William Frères about the latest raids, explaining that these were hindering his government's efforts to assert law and order in the West Bank.

He also added that he was fed up with repeated Israeli claims that they would ease travel and access restrictions, imposed on Palestinians in the West Bank. According to recent U.N. reports, the number of checkpoints and barriers in the territory has actually increased despite Israeli promises to both the Americans and the international community that they would remove a significant number.

The OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) report claimed that while some significant checkpoints had been removed, most of them were either "insignificant or of little significance" and in the meantime new checkpoints had been established.

The PA and Hamas are also on the same page when it comes to Israel's continued settlement expansion and illegal land-grab in the West Bank. Fayyad paid a recent visit to the village of Ni'ilin, near Ramallah, in the central West Bank.

Ni'ilin has been the scene of regular demonstrations and sometimes bloody confrontations pitting Israeli settlers and soldiers against international sympathizers and Palestinian villagers who are protesting the continued building of the Separation Barrier on village land.

The barrier diverges off the internationally recognized Green Line which separates Israel proper from the West Bank, thereby dividing farmers from their crops.

The Israeli Supreme Court actually ordered the Israeli military to reroute the barrier, but the IDF so far has failed to do so.

Fayyad praised local people's protests: "Peaceful, popular action in defense of our land is a legitimate right to thwart plans to confiscate land for building walls and settlements."

Meanwhile, in further developments in the Gaza Strip, Hamas has been laying down the law in regard to smaller resistance groups that have broken the tentative truce that Gaza's de-facto leadership painfully managed to hammer out with the Israelis.

Ironically, Hamas, despite saying that it would not carry out police duties for the Jewish state in regard to protecting Israeli border towns from Qassem fire emanating from Gaza, arrested four members of Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza strip, for firing rockets at Israel or trying to do so.

The Brigades, an offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, claimed Thursday's rocket attack, saying it was in retaliation after Israeli troops shot dead one of its members.

Another three members of the group were also detained last Thursday after two rockets were fired at the southern Israeli town of Sderot.

Normally it is the other way around with PA security forces arresting Hamas members or leaders in the West Bank for allegedly violating PA peace-terms with Israel. Charges of ill-treatment by the PA men of Hamas members surface regularly.

The irony was probably not lost on the Brigades who complained of being "persecuted by dozens of armed Hamas men."


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