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Fatah-Hamas conflict
Part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
A map of the Gaza Strip showing key towns and neighbouring countries.
Date December 15, 2006 – January 2009
Location Gaza Strip (mostly), West Bank
Status Indecisive
Hamas flag2.png Hamas Fateh-logo.jpg Fatah
Hamas flag2.png Ismail Haniya
Hamas flag2.png Khaled Meshaal
Hamas flag2.png Mohammed Deif
Fateh-logo.jpg Mahmoud Abbas
Fateh-logo.jpg Mohammed Dahlan
Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades: 15,000
Executive Force: 6,000[1][2]
National Security: 30,000
Preventive Security Service: 30,000
General Intelligence: 5,000
Presidential Guard: 4,200
Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade: Several thousand[1][2]
Casualties and losses
83 killed 165 killed
98 civilians killed
1,000+ wounded on both sides

The Fatah–Hamas conflict (Arabic: النزاع بين فتح و حماسAl-Nizāʿ bain Fataḥ wa Ḥamās), also referred to as the Palestinian Civil War (Arabic: الحرب الأهلية الفلسطينية Al-Ḥarb al-ʾAhliyyah al-Filisṭīnīyah), and the Conflict of Brothers (Arabic: صراع الأخوة Ṣirāʿ al-Ikhwah), i.e. fratricidal war, began in 2006 and has continued, in one form or another, into 2009. The conflict is between the two main Palestinian parties, Fatah and Hamas. The majority of the fighting is occurring in the Gaza Strip where fighting began after Hamas's legislative victories. Hamas remains in control of the Gaza Strip. The conflict is called Wakseh among Palestinians, meaning humiliation, ruin, and collapse as a result of self-inflicted damage.



The tensions between Hamas and Fatah began to rise in 2005 after the death of longtime PLO leader Yasser Arafat, who died on November 11, 2004, and intensified after Hamas won the elections of 2006.


2006 elections

Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections. As a result, Israel, the United States, the European Union, several Western states, and the Arab states imposed sanctions suspending all foreign aid, upon which Palestinians depend. (They have promised to resume aid if Hamas fulfills '3 Demands,' recognizing Israel, accepting agreements made by the Palestinian Authority under the previous Fatah-led Administration, and denouncing violence.) Despite the sanctions, and incidents of successful border interdiction,[3] Hamas leaders were able to smuggle enough money into the Palestinian territories to maintain basic health and educational services.[4] The defeated Fatah party maintains control of most of the Palestinian security apparatus. The US administration funded Abbas's Presidential Guard.[5].

U.S. funding, weapons, and training for Fatah

Over 2006 and 2007, the United States supplied guns, ammunition, and training to Palestinian Fatah activists to take on Hamas in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank in a U.S. effort that cost $59 million and covertly persuaded Arab allies to supply more funding. A large number of Fatah activists were trained and "graduated" from two West Bank camps while Jordan and Egypt trained two Fatah battalions, one of which was deployed to Gaza in May.[6][7][8]

According to Vanity Fair, in 2006 the United States initiated a "covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war." [9]

March 2006 to December 2006 rise of tensions

The period from March to December 2006 was marked by tensions when Fatah commanders refused to take orders from the government while the Palestinian Authority initiated a campaign of assassinations and abductions against Hamas which led to Hamas beginning its own. Tensions grew additionally between the two Palestinian factions after they failed to reach a deal to share government power. On December 15, Abbas called for Palestinian general election.[10] Hamas has challenged the legality of holding an early election, maintaining its right to hold the full term of its democratically elected offices. Hamas has characterized this as an attempted Fatah coup by Abbas,[11] using undemocratic means to overthrow the results of a democratically elected government.[8]

According to one Palestinian rights group, more than 600 Palestinians were killed in fighting from January 2006 to May 2007.[12] A serious escalation in the violence was marked by the 2006 Rimal neighborhood shootings.


Palestinian National Authority

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
the Palestinian National Authority

1 On June 14, 2007, President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed Haniyeh's government and appointed Fayyad to form an emergency government. However, Haniyeh and Hamas maintain that these actions were illegal and that Haniyeh is still the Prime Minister. Haniyeh still exercises de facto authority in the Gaza Strip, while Fayyad's authority is limited de facto to the West Bank.

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First round of fighting

On December 15, 2006, fighting broke out in the West Bank after Palestinian security forces fired on a Hamas rally in Ramallah. At least 20 people were wounded in the clashes which came shortly after Hamas accused Fatah of attempting to assassinate Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister.[13]

Intense fighting continued throughout December 2006 and January 2007 in the Gaza Strip. Several ceasefire attempts failed, being broken by continued battles. In February 2007, Palestinian rivals met in the Islamic holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia and reached an accord ensuring a ceasefire. However, minor incidents continued through March and April 2007. More than 90 people were killed in these first months.

Second round of fighting

In mid-May 2007, clashes erupted once again in the streets of Gaza. In less than 20 days, more than 50 Palestinians were killed. Leaders of both parties tried to stop the fighting with dozens of truces, but none of them held for longer than a few days.

By most accounts, Hamas performed better than Fatah in the second round of fighting. Some attribute this to the discipline and better training of Hamas's fighters,[14] as most of the casualties have been from the Fatah faction. However, Fatah's armed forces are greater in numbers, and security officials from Israel and the United States allege that Hamas downplayed its casualties.

Third round of fighting: Gaza: Hamas reasserts control

Throughout the four days of fighting Hamas had taken control of the main north-south road and the coastal road.[15] The Israeli government closed all check-points on borders of Gaza in response to the violence. During the four days of intense fighting at least 116 people were killed.

West Bank: Fatah wins and establishes a separate government

The attacks of Hamas gunmen against Fatah security forces in the Gaza Strip resulted in a reaction of Fatah gunmen against Hamas institutions in the West Bank. Although Hamas's numbers are greater in the Gaza Strip, Fatah forces are greater in the West Bank.

On June 14, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the dissolution of the current unity government and the declaration of a state of emergency.[16][17] Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya was dismissed, and Abbas began to rule Gaza and the West Bank by presidential decree. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded by declaring that President Abbas's decision was "in practical terms...worthless," asserting that Haniya "remains the head of the government even if it was dissolved by the president".[18]

Nathan Brown of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace comments that under the 2003 Palestinian Constitution Abbas clearly has the right to declare a state of emergency and dismiss the prime minister but the state of emergency can continue only for 30 days. After that it would need to be renewed by the (Hamas-dominated) Legislative Council, which also constrains the breadth of his emergency powers. Neither Hamas nor Fatah currently has enough votes to form a new government under the constitution.[19] The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights condemns Hamas's "decision to resolve the conflict militarily" but argues that "steps taken by President Mahmoud Abbas in response to these events violate the Basic Law and undermine the Basic Law in a manner that is no less dangerous."[20]

On June 15, Abbas appointed Salam Fayyad as prime minister and gave him the task of forming a new government.[21]

The West Bank had its first casualty when the bullet-riddled body of a Hamas militant was found in Nablus, sparking the fear Fatah would use its advantage in the West Bank for retaliation against its members' deaths in the Gaza Strip[22] On the same day, Hamas also declared that it was in full control of Gaza, a claim denied by Abbas.[23]

On June 16, a Fatah-linked militant group, the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, stormed the Hamas-controlled parliament based in Ramallah in the West Bank. This act, including the ransack of the ministry of education, has been seen as a reaction to similar looting occurring following Hamas's military success in Gaza.

On June 20, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar declared that if Fatah continued to try to uproot Hamas in the West Bank, it could lead to Fatah's downfall there as well. He would not deny when asked that Hamas resistance against Fatah would take the form of attacks and suicide bombings similar to those Hamas has used against Israel in the past.[24]

Renewed clashes in Gaza

On October 17, clashes erupted in eastern Gaza between Hamas security forces and members of the powerful Heles clan (Fatah-affiliated), leaving up to two dead on both sides. Fatah and Hamas officials gave conflicting accounts of what caused the fighting but the dispute seems to have originated when Hamas officials demanded that the clan return a governmental car. Another gun battle on October 20 killed one member of the clan and a 13-year-old boy.[25] During the same day, in Rafah, one woman was killed and eight people were injured when Hamas security members traded fire with Islamic Jihad activists. Two days later, 7 more Palestinians were killed in the internal fighting, including some Hamas militants and a Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant.[26]

On November 12, a large demonstration dedicated to the memory of late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat was organized by Fatah in Gaza City. With over 200,000 participants, this was the largest Fatah demonstration in the Gaza strip since the Hamas takeover. The demonstration was forcibly dispersed by Hamas gunmen, who fired into the crowd. At least six civilians were killed and over 80 people were injured, some from being trampled in the resulting stampede.[27] The smaller militant group Islamic Jihad, whose members have clashed with Hamas several times, condemned the shootings.

On January 1, 2008, at least eight people had died in factional fighting in the Gaza Strip.[28]

West Bank 2009

On May 31, 2009, six were killed as Palestinian Authority and Hamas forces clashed in Qalqilya. Ethan Bronner described the fighting as an indication "that the Palestinian unity needed for creation of a state is far off." [29]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Religious war in Gaza". Ynet. 2007-02-03.,7340,L-3360655,00.html.  
  2. ^ a b Henry Chu (2007-05-17). "Factional fighting in Gaza imperils unity government". Los Angeles Times.,0,6814988.story.  
  3. ^ "Hamas minister carries millions of dollars into Gaza". Reuters. 2006-06-14.  
  4. ^ Tamimi, Azzam (2006-12-19). "Only an end to sanctions can halt Palestine's crisis". The Guardian.,,1975124,00.html.  
  5. ^ Erlanger date=2006-10-04, Steven. "U.S. offers plan to strengthen Abbas". International Herald Tribune.  
  6. ^ "No-goodniks and the Palestinian shootout". Asia Times. 2007-01-09.  
  7. ^ Baroud, Ramzy (July 2007). "Gaza: chaos foretold". Le Monde Diplomatique.  
  8. ^ a b "Hamas coup in Gaza. Volume 13, Issue 5". International Institute for Strategic Studies. June, 2007. Retrieved 2009-01-05.  
  9. ^ "The Gaza Bombshell". Vanity Fair. 2008-04-01.  
  10. ^ "Abbas calls for early Palestinian poll". Reuters. 2006-12-16.  
  11. ^ Hardaker, David (2006-12-17). "Hamas accuses Abbas of launching coup". ABC News.  
  12. ^ "Over 600 Palestinians killed in internal clashes since 2006". Reuters via Ynet. 2007-06-06.,7340,L-3409548,00.html.  
  13. ^ "Hamas accuses Fatah over attack". Al Jazeera. 2006-12-15. Retrieved 2006-12-19.  
  14. ^ "Palestinian rivals: Fatah & Hamas". BBC News. 2007-06-17. Retrieved January 4, 2010.  
  15. ^ "How Hamas took over the Gaza Strip". BBC News. 2007-06-15. Retrieved January 4, 2010.  
  16. ^ "Abbas Dissolves Palestinian Authority Government in Wake of Hamas-Fatah War". 2007-06-14.,2933,282195,00.html. Retrieved 2008-07-14.  
  17. ^ Levinson, Charles; Matthew Moore (2007-06-14). "Abbas declares state of emergency in Gaza". Retrieved 2007-06-14.  
  18. ^ "Abbas sacks Hamas-led government". BBC News. 2007-06-14. Retrieved 2008-07-14.  
  19. ^ Nathan Brown (2007-06-15). "What Can Abu Mazin Do?". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.,zme. Retrieved 2007-06-19.  
  20. ^ "No Alternative to Political Dialogue: PCHR’s Position towards the Current Crisis in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian National Authority". Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. 2007-06-18. Retrieved 2007-06-19.  
  21. ^ President Abbas prepares to swear in unelected interim government
  22. ^ [1],
  23. ^ "Hamas 'in full control of Gaza'". BBC News. 2007-06-15. Retrieved 2008-07-14.  
  24. ^ Erlanger, Steven (2007-06-21), A Leader of Hamas Warns of West Bank Peril for Fatah, New York Times,, retrieved 2008-07-14, "Mr. Zahar, the former Palestinian foreign minister, said Hamas would not sit idle if its political rival, Fatah, ...continued to attack Hamas institutions and politicians."  
  25. ^ "Gaza: 4 dead as Hamas, Fatah clan clash". Jerusalem Post. 2007-10-18.  
  26. ^ "One Palestinian killed in internal Gaza fighting". Reuters. 2007-10-21.  
  27. ^ "Gunfire kills seven at Fatah rally in Gaza". Reuters. 2007-11-12.  
  28. ^ BBC NEWS | Middle East |Eight dead in Gaza faction clash
  29. ^ "6 Die as Palestinian Authority Forces Clash With Hamas." New York Times, June 1, 2009, Ethan Bronner [2]

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