Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) of Mahmoud Abbas have launched a crackdown on the Hamas resistance movement in the occupied West Bank.
The crackdown came after a bomb attack, widely blamed on Fatah, killed five high ranking Hamas members and a five year old girl in the Gaza Strip on Friday of last week.
As Hamas rounded up Fatah supporters in the Gaza Strip, Fatah loyalists and Israeli troops spread across the West Bank arresting members of Hamas and closing its social organisations, including schools and an orphanage.
At the heart of the factional fighting are two divergent strategies over resistance to the Israeli occupation.
Fatah emerged out of the Palestinian revolution in the 1960s and was one of the main organisations fighting for a homeland. The movement abandoned the resistance in the 1990s in return for land-for-peace deal that never materialised.
In contrast Hamas cautioned against any deal that did not address the central demands of the Palestinian people – including the right of return for millions of refugees ethnically cleansed in 1948.
Hamas grew as ordinary people became increasingly frustrated with broken promises of peace and rampant corruption inside the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority. In 2006 Hamas won the Palestinian general elections.
Israel, the US and their Arab allies, refused to recognise the elected Hamas government.
Israel placed the Gaza Strip – which is the power base of Hamas – under a punishing economic and military siege. As millions of Palestinians faced hunger and a winter without heating, Fatah signed up to US sponsored “peace talks”.
But the deal came to nothing. Far from bringing peace, Israel announced more land grabs in the Fatah-controlled West Bank and continued to build the apartheid wall that is destroying Palestinian communities.
In contrast the Israelis were forced to abandon their settlements in the Gaza Strip.
According to the United Nations the siege drove 52 percent of Palestinian households into deep poverty, plunged the Gaza Strip into darkness and choked essential supplies of food and medicines.
The Israelis and their Palestinian allies hoped that this blockade would induce ordinary people to turn on Hamas. Instead support for the movement grew.
At the heart of this battle between the two wings of the Palestinian movement is the question of “resistance or capitulation”. As Fatah’s strategy falls apart it is forced to attempt more drastic measures – including round-ups, the closure of vital social institutions and assassination of its rivals.