Hamas Poised to Convert Captured Gaza Strip into Islamist Enclave
DEBKAfile’s Exclusive Log of Five-Day Blitz
June 14, 2007, 12:58 PM (GMT+02:00)
Abbas' Presidential Guardsmen surrender to Hamas
14 June: Hamas seizes control of strategic Philadelphi enclave on Egyptian border and all Gaza’s border crossings with Egypt and Israel. At least 35 people died in the fighting Wednesday. Any international force in Gaza will be resisted in the same way as an Israeli occupation army, said a Hamas spokesman Thursday, June 14.
Senior Israeli officers described the Hamas victory to DEBKAfile as a greater misfortune for Israel than its Lebanon War setbacks. There, Hizballah was forced by Israeli military action to accept a UN ceasefire and international peacekeepers.
Hamas has no such incentive. In the case of Gaza, the winner takes all and can dictate terms. A radical Islamic enclave with a dominant Iranian-Syrian military presence has sprung up unopposed as a hostile reality on Israel’s southwestern border. It has made the Israeli-Middle East Quartet’s boycott an irrelevance.
The Hamas Executive Force completed the seizure of all pro-Fatah Presidential Guard border positions, including the Karni goods crossing and the Sufa, Kerem Shalom and Rafah transit points, after midnight Wednesday night, June 14. Their commander Col. Musbah Basichi and his 60 officers fled to Egypt. At least 35 Palestinians were killed in fighting Wednesday.
Hamas pounced as Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert held a belated conversation with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the deployment of an international force on the Philadelphi route. Hamas leaders flushed with victory will hardly accept such hindrance to the free flow of smuggled arms, missiles and explosives into the Gaza Strip.
Israeli military and security personnel administering the crossings on the Israeli side will have to work cheek by jowl with Hamas operators. The Israeli government, which decided to stay out of the Hamas-Fatah conflict, must now decide whether to break off ties with Hamas-controlled Gaza and seal the crossings, or interact with the new masters in order to admit emergency supplies for 1.4 million Gazans.
13 June: Overnight, thousands of Palestinian security officers loyal to Fatah were under Hamas siege at their last bastions – Gaza City’s Presidential Guard compound and the General Security command.
They are running out of food, water and ammunition. Hamas and its Executive Force had overrun some 80 percent of the Gaza Strip, while loyalists of Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah, including complete clans, surrendered and turned in their weapons. Hamas has set up large prisoner camps, some on the rubble of the Gush Katif villages. Wednesday afternoon, a desperate Abbas appealed to Israel to permit arms and ammunition to be transferred from the West Bank. Israeli officers said it was too late. Fatah is a lost case and any arms crossing into Gaza will be seized at once by Hamas.
Israel decides to stay out of the Palestinian internecine war in Gaza.
Prime minister Ehud Olmert led the cabinet in a decision Tuesday night, June 12, to avoid “fighting on the side of the pragmatists against the extremists.” Olmert said an international force is worth considering for securing the Philadelphi border enclave of the Gaza Strip against further arms smuggling. DEBKAfile: This would replicate the situation in South Lebanon where UNIFIL troops have been helpless to halt illegal gunrunning to the Hizballah from Syria. The UN Security voiced concern over this traffic only Tuesday, June 12.
12 June: DEBKAfile reported Hamas’ seizure of Gaza’s main south-north highway in fierce fighting with many casualties, most Fatah.
By borrowing this Israeli tactic for bisecting the territory to contain terrorists, Hamas shut in Mahmoud Abbas’s Presidential Guard, which has not yet been thrown into battle, and choked off ammunition re-supply routes to Fatah fighters. To tighten their control, Hamas units also commandeered high rise rooftops.
Hamas then gave Fatah till Friday noon to surrender their arms or become wanted men under sentence of death. Abbas called the situation “madness.”
UNWRA has cut down its personnel in Gaza after two aid workers were killed.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Hamas’ planning and combat tactics clearly betray the professional hands of Syrian and Hizballah officers who have set up a command center in the Gaza Strip.
DEBKAfile’s Military sources: Iran and Syria are the winners of Hamas’ military coup against Fatah in Gaza Strip
It was the second triumph in a week for a Palestinian force backed by Iran and Syria, after the Lebanese army failed in four weeks’ combat to crush the pro-Syrian factions’ barricaded in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian camp near Tripoli.
Tuesday, Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Palestinian Authority forces faced disaster. Their inevitable ejection from the Gaza Strip effectively severs Palestinian rule between Ramallah, where Fatah will have to fight to retain control of the West Bank and Gaza, dominated now by an Islamist Palestinian force manipulated from Tehran and Damascus.
The Iran-Syrian alliance has acquired by brute force two Mediterranean coastal enclaves in northern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
Its momentum, launched a month ago in both sectors was unchecked. The Fouad Siniora government’s troops failed to break through to the Palestinian camp and crush the pro-Syrian uprising. The Olmert government stood by unmoved as the most radical elements in the Middle East snatched the Gaza Strip on Israel’s southwestern border.
The Bush administration is finding itself forced out of key Middle East positions, its main assets Siniora and Mahmoud Abbas trounced on the battlefield.
Israel’s technological feat of placing the Ofeq-7 surveillance satellite in orbit Monday quickly proved ineffective against the sort of tactics Tehran and Syria employ: mobile, suicidal Palestinian terrorists, heavily and cheaply armed with primitive weapons, who are winning the first round of the Summer 2007 war and preparing for the next.
11 June: DEBKAfile reported: The brutal civil strife has brought the fragile Hamas-Fatah unity government to closure. The War Crimes Prosecution Watch has condemned rival Palestinian factions fighting in Gaza for attacking civilians, prisoners and hospitals.
Senior Palestinian politician Saab Erikat warned the “Mogadishu syndrome” is overtaking Palestinian Gaza. “If war and lawlessness are not extinguished, the fire will burn us all”
The outcome generated by the civil war is the separation of Palestinian rule between Hamas-controlled Gaza and the Fatah-led West Bank.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Hamas threw its entire 5,000-strong Executive Force armed with mortars, RPGs, heavy machine guns and grenades into the final bid to conquer the Gaza Strip, whereas Fatah commanders’ desperate appeals to Mahmoud Abbas for reinforcements drew nothing but a futile call for a ceasefire.