Friday, May 19, 2006

Fatah catches Hamas courier with huge amount of cash on him...Hamas demands Fatah release him and the money.

Sami Abu Zuchri, a Hamas operative, was arrested by members of Mahmoud Abbas' Force 17 Fatah faction with an amount in cash secreted on his body that varies in different reports from between 900,000 and 630,000 Euros (between $1M and $800K US) at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

The Force 17 guards `impounded' the money and arrested Abu Zuchri. Apparently he was on his way back into Gaza from Qatar.

Force 17 has control of the Rafah crossing because Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree transferring supervision over it from the Hamas-controlled interior ministry to a new body he set up called the `Border Management Agency' answering only to him.

What this was, obviously, was Hamas money sent via a courier from the Arab world, or possibly Iran.

The situation is pretty tense in Gaza right now, and this incident has really exacerbated things, as Hamas is demanding the release of Sami Abu Zuchri and the cash.

Talk about your `Sophranos' scenarios!

Thing is, Abbas and Fatah are at a major disadvantage in Gaza.

Yesterday, Abbas told Hamas to disband its new `security force'commanded by Jamal Semhadana and consisting mostly of members of Hamas's armed wing, Izzaddin al-Kassam, and the Popular Resistance Committee. Abbas complained to Hamas about the parade it staged Wednesday of its “Implementation Force” of 8,000 men. He threatened to dismantle fire Ismail Haniya’s Hamas government and call new elections unless the force was disbanded.

According to my sources, these are empty threats. There are not only lots of defectors changing sides and placing themselves under Hamas command but a lot of Fatah troops that are simply staying out of any direct confrontation with Hamas until they see which way the wind is blowing.

Abbas was only able to get a small group into the streets as a show of force, and was even reduced to having the Force 17 company set out on their morning jog in the streets of Gaza for Palestinian television as a show of support for Chairman Abbas.

Hamas now controls all the major checkpoints in Gaza City and elsewhere.

Egyptian diplomats and security officials who are based in the Gaza Strip spent more than six hours on Wednesday night trying to mediate between Hamas and Fatah to avoid a major war between the two. So far, no go.

This morning, another gunfight broke out near the Palestinian parliament building in the Gaza Strip, and two of Abbas'`police officers' and a Hamas `soldier' were shot.

The countdown to a major confrontation has already begun. As one Abbas aide put it this week, "We are only a step away from civil war."

The beast continues to eat itself.

And proponents of the Palestinian cause should be aware that this is exactly what would be taking place if Israel magically disappeared and a second Palestinian Arab State was set up in its place.

The basic nature of these people is unchanging.

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