By Joyce Chediac, workers.org, June 24, 2007
The Abbas-Dahlan clique within Fatah has allowed itself to be the agent of a U.S.-Israeli planned coup against Hamas, designed to topple the unity government. Hamas’ military moves in Gaza this month were defensive actions to prevent that coup. Here’s how it went.
January 2006: To the shock of Tel Aviv and Washington, 80 percent of the Palestinian electorate vote for Hamas, for a substantial majority in the Palestinian Authority Parliament.
February 2006: A program attributed to U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams calls for giving Fatah guns, ammunition and training, and getting them to fight Hamas for control of the Palestinian government. Abrams is known for getting funds to Nicaraguan contras in the 1980s and covering up massacres and atrocities committed against civilians in El Salvador by U.S.-backed militias and death squads. (Asia Times, May 16; Conflicts Forum, Jan. 7; electronicintifada.net, June 14)
January 2007: The Bush administration announces plans to give $86 million to “fortify Mr. Abbas against armed assaults from Hamas.” The security program “reflects the basic sense in the [Bush] administration that the only way to change things is through confrontation.” (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 12)
Much of these funds were earmarked for “unaccountable militias, particularly the ‘Preventive Security Force’ headed by Gaza warlord Mohammad Dahlan, a close ally of Israel and the United States and the Abbas-affiliated ‘Presidential Guard.’” (electronicintifada.net, June 14) Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor of the British Observer, called Dahlan “the man widely credited with beginning the cycle of violence in Gaza” (June 17).
February 2007: Hamas and Fatah, in an agreement brokered in Mecca by Saudi Arabia, form a national unity government that will place their militias under the control of a neutral interior minister. However, Abbas and Dahlan refuse and continue to amass weapons (Conflicts Forum, Jan. 7)
At that time, a senior Hamas official said of Dahlan, “This man has been involved in the American-backed plot to topple our government.” (Jerusalem Post, Feb. 14)
In addition to supplying guns, ammunition and training to Fatah forces to take on Hamas in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank, by this time the U.S. government had arranged for the training of a large number of Fatah military personnel at camps in Ramallah and Jericho, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
May 2007: “Israel this week allowed the Palestinian party Fatah to bring into the Gaza Strip as many as 500 fresh troops trained under a U.S.-coordinated program to counter Hamas. ... The troops were trained by Egyptian authorities under a program coordinated by Lt. Gen. Keith W. Dayton, a special U.S. envoy to the region.” Additionally, the U.S. government “approved $40 million to train the Palestinian Presidential Guard, a force of about 4,000 troops. ... Although it is under Abbas’ authority, the Presidential Guard is run by Mohammed Dahlan.” (Washington Post, May 18)
Israeli paper of record Haaretz publishes on May 4 the full text of another U.S. plan, “Benchmarks for Agreement on Movement and Access,” which details deadlines for Israeli dismantling of roadblocks, with Mohammad Dahlan drawing up and implementing a security plan to stop Qassam rocket fire into Israel—code words for suppressing Hamas. The forces under Dahlan must be deployed to “problem areas no later than [the] date” of June 21. (Asia Times, May 16)
June 2007: With this plan and date as a backdrop, senior Fatah officials in the Gaza Strip ask Israel “to allow them to receive large shipments of arms and ammunition from Arab countries, including Egypt.” This includes “armored cars, hundreds of armor-piercing RPG rockets, thousands of hand grenades and millions of rounds of ammunition for small caliber weapons.” (Haaretz, June 7)
Laila el-Haddad, a writer for Aljazeera.net, said while waiting to pass through the Rafah crossing from Gaza into Egypt on June 7 that she saw “several hundred and thousand” Palestinian troops enter Gaza. (democracynow.org, June 15)
In a preemptive move, in mid-June Hamas took control of Fatah’s national police headquarters, the border crossing with Egypt, the Preventive Security headquarters, Fatah’s intelligence services, the Presidential Guard offices, and media. While Fatah forces were more numerous and better armed, they were demoralized and offered little resistance.