by Tony Cross
Article published on the 2009-01-15 Latest update 2009-01-19 07:53 TU
A leading member of President Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah has called for his party and its rivals in the Islamic movement Hamas to end the split in the Palestinian ranks which, he says, is “helping the Israelis” more than the attack on Gaza. Fatah Central Committee member Abdallah Al Frangi believes that the Israelis were planning the Gaza offensive for more than eight months and used Hamas rocket attacks as a pretext for their action.
“I am from Gaza,” says Al Frangi. “My home is there, my family is there and I phone every day more than ten times and I am sitting all the time looking to the television and following the news there in Gaza Strip.
“It is too hard! It is too hard for me, it is too hard for everybody who is a human being.”
Gazans are living without water or electricity, he says. Many have been wounded or killed and “surely I am suffering with them”.
No-one in his immediate family has died, however, but every day there is news of some friend or acquaintance who has died and, he insists, that none of them are armed fighters.
On Thursday, according to Al Frangi’s contacts, the Israelis attacked the south-west of the strip, with shots fired throughout the night. The Israelis are trying to isolate Gaza City and control the north, centre and the south of the strip, he says.
When asked about Palestinian criticisms of President Mahmud Abbas’s response to the offensive, Al Frangi sighs and shrugs, saying that nobody believed that the attack would be so intense when it started.
But he claims that the Israelis were preparing the offensive for longer than eight months, “So I don’t believe that the Israelis came to Gaza because of the missiles of Hamas.
“From time to time they want to show the world, and the Arab people, that they are strong and that nobody can touch them and nobody can fight against them and I think they used Hamas in this case.”
The split between Fatah and Hamas “is helping the Israelis more than this attack,” Al Frangi says. He believes that it is a threat to the Palestinians’ future and that they must rebuild unity.
Abbas’s priority is a ceasefire, according to Al Frangi. He also wants to reopen Gaza borders and rebuild Palestinian unity.
But “it is not easy.” For the last two years, since Abbas dismissed the Hamas-led government the two sides have not spoken.
And Al Frangi, who used to negotiate with Hamas, says that the Islamists are unreliable negotiators, prone to demanding radical revisions of agreements just when agreement seems close.
When Al Frangi returned to Gaza from exile with PLO leader Yasser Arafat in Tunis, Hamas mocked him for his name, which means “foreigner” in Arabic. They told him to “go back abroad” or even “return to your foreign religion”, he recalls.
“I think it is time now to speak directly together, to think how can we end this aggression and stop this war against the Palestinians and how can we rebuild the infrastructure which is destroyed in Gaza Strip.”
But he is not optimistic.
“I have the feeling the Hamas people are not ready to make a step towards Fatah to make a common policy together.”