Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has warned that Israel is planning a large scale invasion of the Gaza Strip. The purpose would be to put a stop to rocket attacks that have killed a number of Israelis recently, and wrest away control of the territory from Hamas and hand it over to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
In an effort to thwart the invasion, Abbas has decided to resume talks with Hamas. The move by Abbas was welcomed by Prime Minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
Hamas took control of the Palestinian government by sweeping elections held in January, 2006, winning a majority in the parliament. The US had pressured the Palestinian Authority to hold the elections, but decried the result. As punishment for the Palestinian people voting the wrong way, the Bush administration withheld aid and sought to undermine the new government.
Israel, for its part, kidnapped dozens of elected Palestinian officials and withheld tax money, which it collects from Palestinians on behalf of the PA (thus essentially robbing the Palestinian people), effectively crippling the already weakened government.
Israel also placed Gaza effectively under siege and refused even to allow aid into the territory, pushing Gaza ever closer towards what human rights groups were calling a potential humanitarian crisis. Since the summer Israeli-Hezbollah war in 2006, Israel has tightened its grip on Gaza even further.
Hamas and Fatah had begun working towards establishing a “unity government”, but the US interceded to prevent any such arrangement from happening, instead pressuring Abbas to dissolve the government and consolidate power by declaring a state of emergency. With the knowledge that such a move could lead towards a virtual civil war, the US vowed to support Fatah, and shipments of rifles and ammunition followed.
Hamas rejected the call to hold elections before the four-year term they had been elected to had ended. They said they would boycott any such elections and held that Abbas had no authority to hold them. Clashes between Hamas and Fatah led to warnings of a civil war.
In June, 2007, Hamas successfully ousted Fatah from the Gaza Strip in what was called a “coup” in the media(whereas Abbas’ move to dissolve the democratically elected government and illegally hold new elections was not).
Israel intensified its blockade of Gaza, forcing 90 percent of its factories and workshops to close and increasing the number of people living on less than $2 a day to 70 percent of the population.
Explaining the takeover of Gaza, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum explained that “there was a plan, approved by America, to destroy the political choice.”
Even neoconservative David Wurmser, former Middle East adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, acknowledged, “It looks to me that what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen.”