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US millions fail to buy influence in deadly
TheAge.com.au - AFTER weeks of fraternal violence, many Palestinians accuse the
Locals say that after only a couple of hours of relatively minor clashes in northern Gaza last week, the entire area fell under the control of the Islamic ruling party Hamas, backed mainly by Iran and Syria.
Instead of fighting, thousands of Palestinian Authority security men supposedly loyal to the US-backed former ruling party, Fatah, melted quietly away. And this week in
Several senior Fatah leaders in
These signs of collapsing Fatah unity come despite - or perhaps because of - the White House's recent announcement that it will provide $US86 million ($A110 million) to strengthen Mr Abbas' Presidential Guard for any showdown with Hamas.
In the West Bank town of
Israel has released to Mr Abbas $US100 million of the customs revenue it has been withholding from the Palestinian Government since Hamas, which refuses to recognise the Jewish state or renounce armed struggle, beat Fatah in elections last year.
Yet for all the money, guns and training there is reason to doubt whether the new Presidential Guards, any more than the other 60,000-odd members of the PA's ramshackle network of rival security forces, are really up for a showdown with Hamas' warriors.
It was the breakdown in law and order and the lack of progress towards independence from
"Abu al-Abd", a Hamas intelligence chief in northern
"I know these Presidential Guards," he said. "They are cowards. They won't fight. They depend on bhangu (hashish), whiskey, cigarettes and hair gel. They aren't fighting for any ideology. Who should they die for? Dahlan? When we come for them they will ask, what should I lose my life for?"
While the fighting qualities of the PA's security forces still remains open to doubt, Fatah's own armed militia, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, would seem a hollow reed for Mr Abbas, Mr Dahlan and their foreign backers to lean on.
This week Baha Abu Jarad, 35, and his fellow al-Aqsa Brigades (and PA security force) commander "Abu Isam", 33, were holed up in a lone block of the Jabaliya refugee camp, scene of the worst of the recent clashes, unable to leave following repeated attacks by Hamas' Qassam Brigades.
As the commanders denounced Hamas to reporters in a bare fourth-storey room, their guards crowded around to listen. Brandishing loaded grenade launchers and unserviceable Soviet machine-guns, the guerilla fighters posed eagerly for photographs.
Then, after a brief huddle to consult, they posed again, this time with masks on.
When the reporters left, they found the street outside deserted; despite the genuine peril of the situation, all the sentries had abandoned their posts to go upstairs and join in the fun. Full report published on Feb. 9 by theage.com.au