Hamas-Fatah conflict

Fatah-Hamas conflict
Part of Palestinian political violence
Date 2006 – present (military conflict mainly 2007)
Location Palestinian Authority (mainly Gaza Strip)
Status Reconciliation process:
  • Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip
  • New Palestinian Government in the West Bank, appointed by Mahmoud Abbas
  • Reconciliation agreement signed May 2011
  • Doha agreement signed 2012
  • Renewed political crisis in March–April 2012[1]
  • Strong increase of tensions in 2013[2][3][4]
Hamas Fatah
Commanders and leaders
Ismail Haniya
Khaled Meshaal
Mohammed Deif
Mahmoud Abbas
Mohammed Dahlan
Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades: 15,000
Executive Police Force: 6,000[5][6]
National Security: 30,000
Preventive Security Service: 30,000
General Intelligence: 5,000
Presidential Guard: 4,200
Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade: Several thousand[5][6]
Casualties and losses
83 killed 165 killed
98 civilians killed
1,000+ wounded on both sides[7]
Total: 600+ killed[7]

The Fatah–Hamas conflict (Arabic: النزاع بين فتح وحماسan-Nizāʿ bayna Fataḥ wa-Ḥamās), also referred to as the Palestinian Civil War (Arabic: الحرب الأهلية الفلسطينيةal-Ḥarb al-ʾAhliyyah al-Filisṭīnīyyah), began in 2006, after Hamas' legislative victories. It has continued, politically and sometimes militarily up to this day. The conflict, which erupted between the two main Palestinian parties, Fatah and Hamas, resulted in the split of Palestinian Authority into two polities, both seeing themselves the true representatives of the Palestinian people – the Fatah ruled Palestinian National Authority and the Hamas Government in Gaza.

The Cairo reconciliation agreement between the parties was signed in May 2011, bringing hopes of reuniting the Fatah-ruled Palestinian National Authority and the Hamas Government in Gaza. The implementation of the agreement however was not executed up until the withdrawal of the Hamas external office from Damascus, due to the Syrian civil war. As a result, the Doha deal was signed by Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashal in 2012. On April 1, 2012, the Doha implementation however was described as "stalling".[1] with no progress on the joint elections scheme. In addition, the Fatah blamed Hamas that its security forces have set up roadblocks and arrested dozens of Fatah members and individuals in Gaza, whom they accused of "spreading rumors".[1] In the aftermath of the Palestinian UN upgrade to observer state status, all negotiations have seized. In the 2013 Egyptian coup, Hamas government in Gaza was described as a major looser, with its major ally Muslim Brotherhood headed government in Egypt overthrown.

According to one Palestinian rights group, more than 600 Palestinians were killed in fighting from January 2006 to May 2007.[8] A serious escalation in the violence was marked by the 2006 Rimal neighborhood shootings.


Template:Politics sidebar title
Template:Politics sidebar below

Since the conclusion of the 1993/1995 Oslo Accords by Israel and the Fatah-dominated PLO, Fatah and Hamas went different ways. While Fatah renounced armed resistance and collaborated with Israel,[9] Hamas continued its armed fight against the occupation.[10] Fatah hoped, agreements with Israel would end the occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state. Hamas opposed agreements and first wanted Israel to end the occupation.[11] The international community wanted the Israeli–Palestinian conflict solved by negotiations and particularly through the 2003 Roadmap for peace; she preferred to support Fatah and reject Hamas joining the Palestinia Authority.

The tensions between Hamas and Fatah began to rise after the death of strong leader Yasser Arafat on 11 November 2004. They intensified after Hamas won the elections of 2006 and the international community increased the pressure on the Palestinian Authority.

2006 elections and Hamas-government

Main articles: Palestinian legislative election, 2006 and Palestinian government of March 2006

With the death of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian Authority was left without a strong leader. With a sharp rise in lawlessness and crime in 2004–2005, as well as a steep decline in public service delivery, Hamas won the 2006 electoral elections. In reaction, Israel, the United States, the European Union, several Western states, and the Arab states imposed sanctions suspending all foreign aid.

On 25 June 2006, militant groups conducted a cross-border raid into Israel. The Israeli response left Hamas with half its parliamentary bloc and its cabinet ministers in the West Bank in Israeli custody.[12]

Despite the sanctions, and incidents of successful border interdiction,[13] Hamas leaders were able to smuggle enough money into the Palestinian territories to maintain basic health and educational services.[14] The US administration funded Abbas's Presidential Guard.[15]

A plan of president Abbas to topple Hamas' power in Gaza backfired in June, when Hamas established a separate government, following the Fatah–Hamas battle in Gaza.

Involvement of Britain, United States, Israel and Arab states

Main article: Fatah–Hamas battle in Gaza (Background)

Documents published in Al Jazeera's Palestine Papers reveal that the British intelligence MI6 in 2003 prepared a plan for a wide-ranging crackdown on Hamas in favor of the Palestinian Authority, which until then was dominated by Fatah.[16][17]

Several sources speak of considerable involvement by US, Israel and Arab states, after the electoral victory of Hamas in 2006. The Presidential Guard of Mahmoud Abbas was enlarged and equipped, and its members trained by allies.[18][19][20] According to the IISS, the June escalation was triggered by Hamas's conviction that the PA's Presidential Guard, loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, was being positioned to take control of Gaza. The US had helped build up the Presidential Guard to 3,500 men since August 2006. The US committed $59 million for training and non-lethal equipment for the Presidential Guard, and persuaded Arab allies to fund the purchase of further weapons. Israel, too, allowed light arms to flow to members of the Presidential Guard. Jordan and Egypt hosted at least two battalions for training.[12]


March 2006 to December 2006: rise of tensions

The period from March to December 2006 was marked by tensions when Fatah commanders refused to take orders from the government.[21] which led to Hamas beginning its own.[21] Tensions further grew between the two Palestinian factions after they failed to reach a deal to share government power. On December 15, Abbas called for a Palestinian general election.[22] Hamas challenged the legality of holding an early election, maintaining its right to hold the full term of its democratically elected offices. Hamas characterized this as an attempted Fatah coup by Abbas,[23] using undemocratic means to overthrow the results of a democratically elected government.[12]

December 2006 to January 2007: first battle

On December 15, 2006, fighting broke out in the West Bank after Palestinian National Security Forces fired on a Hamas rally in Ramallah. At least 20 people were wounded in the clashes, which came shortly after Hamas accused Fatah of attempting to assassinate Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister.[24] Intense fighting continued throughout December 2006 and January 2007 in the Gaza Strip. Several ceasefire attempts failed, being broken by continued battles.

February to April 2007: unity government

On 9 February 2007, Palestinian rivals met in the Islamic holy city of Mecca, had signed a Saudi-brokered power-sharing deal, and formed a national unity government in mid-March.[12] However, minor incidents continued through March and April 2007. More than 90 people were killed in these first months.

May 2007: second battle

In mid-May 2007, clashes erupted once again in the streets of Gaza. In less than 18 days, more than 50 Palestinians were killed. Leaders of both parties tried to stop the fighting by calling dozens of truces, but none of them held for longer than a few days.

By most accounts, Hamas performed better than Fatah in the second round of fighting. Some attribute this to the discipline and better training of Hamas's fighters,[25] as most of the casualties were from the Fatah faction.

June 2007: Battle of Gaza

Main article: Fatah–Hamas battle in Gaza

Throughout 10 and 15 June of fighting Hamas took control of the main north–south road and the coastal road.[26] and removed Fatah officials. The ICRC estimated that at least 118 people were killed and more than 550 wounded during the fighting in the week up to June 15.[27] Human Rights Watch accused both sides with violations of international humanitarian law. Including the targeting and killing of civilians, public executions of political opponents and captives, throwing prisoners off high-rise apartment buildings, fighting in hospitals, and shooting from a jeep marked with "TV" insignias.[28] The International Committee of the Red Cross has denounced attacks in and around two hospitals in the northern part of the Gaza strip.[29] The Israeli government closed all check-points on the borders of Gaza in response to the violence.

June 2007: split of government

On June 14, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the dissolution of the current unity government and the declaration of a state of emergency.[30][31] Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya was dismissed, and Abbas began to rule Gaza and the West Bank by presidential decree. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded by declaring that President Abbas's decision was "in practical terms ... worthless," asserting that Haniya "remains the head of the government even if it was dissolved by the president".[32][33]

Nathan Brown of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace commented that under the 2003 Palestinian Constitution Abbas clearly had the right to declare a state of emergency and dismiss the prime minister but the state of emergency could continue only for 30 days. After that it would need to be renewed by the (Hamas-dominated) Legislative Council, which also constrained the breadth of his emergency powers. Neither Hamas nor Fatah had enough votes to form a new government under the constitution.[34] The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights condemned Hamas' "decision to resolve the conflict militarily" but argued that "steps taken by President Mahmoud Abbas in response to these events violate the Basic Law and undermine the Basic Law in a manner that is no less dangerous."[35]

On June 15, Abbas appointed Salam Fayyad as prime minister and gave him the task of forming a new government.[36]

The attacks of Hamas gunmen against Fatah security forces in the Gaza Strip resulted in a reaction of Fatah gunmen against Hamas institutions in the West Bank. Although Hamas's numbers were greater in the Gaza Strip, Fatah forces were greater in the West Bank.

The West Bank had its first casualty when the bullet-riddled body of a Hamas militant was found in Nablus, sparking the fear that Fatah would use its advantage in the West Bank for retaliation against its members' deaths in the Gaza Strip[37] On the same day, Hamas also declared that it was in full control of Gaza, a claim denied by Abbas.[38]

On June 16, a Fatah-linked militant group, the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, stormed the Hamas-controlled parliament based in Ramallah in the West Bank. This act, including the ransack of the ministry of education, was seen as a reaction to similar looting occurring following Hamas' military success in Gaza.[39]

On June 20, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar declared that if Fatah continued to try to uproot Hamas in the West Bank, it could lead to Fatah's downfall there as well. He would not deny when asked that Hamas resistance against Fatah would take the form of attacks and suicide bombings similar to those that Hamas has used against Israel in the past.[40]

October to November 2007: renewed clashes

On October 17, clashes erupted in eastern Gaza between Hamas security forces and members of the powerful Heles clan (Fatah-affiliated), leaving up to two dead on both sides. Fatah and Hamas officials gave conflicting accounts of what caused the fighting but the dispute seems to have originated when Hamas officials demanded that the clan return a governmental car. Another gun battle on October 20 killed one member of the clan and a 13-year-old boy.[41] During the same day, in Rafah, one woman was killed and eight people were injured when Hamas security members traded fire with Islamic Jihad activists. Two days later, 7 more Palestinians were killed in the internal fighting, including some Hamas militants and a Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant.[42]

On November 12, a large demonstration dedicated to the memory of late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat was organized by Fatah in Gaza City. With over 200,000 participants, this was the largest Fatah demonstration in the Gaza Strip since the Hamas takeover. The demonstration was forcibly dispersed by Hamas gunmen, who fired into the crowd. At least six civilians were killed and over 80 people were injured, some from being trampled in the resulting stampede.[43] The smaller militant group Islamic Jihad, whose members have clashed with Hamas several times, condemned the shootings.


On January 1, 2008, at least eight people died in factional fighting in the Gaza Strip.[44]

On May 31, 2009, six people were killed as Palestinian Authority and Hamas forces clashed in Qalqilya. Ethan Bronner described the fighting as an indication "that the Palestinian unity needed for creation of a state is far off."[45]


Following the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and the deposal of Egyptian president Morsi in July 2013, tensions between Fatah and Hamas reached a new high.[2][3][4] According to Barakat al-Farra, the PLO ambassador in Cairo, the Egyptian US-backed el-Sisi regime, which annually receives some $1.5 billion military aid from the US,[46] will keep the Rafah border crossing closed, until forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have regained control. A Hamas official accused the PA leadership of playing a major role in enforcing the blockade of the Gaza Strip.[47]

Reconciliation attempts

In 2011, Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), observed that "due to the failure of the reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas throughout 2010, and the ongoing internal political division, the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been the main victims of the political dispute between both combatant parties," the report observed. Noting the "overwhelming majority" of prisoners being political prisoners as well as "delayed, circumvented or ignored rulings by Palestinian court" and "rise in torture allegations from the previous year".[48] Both groups nevertheless expressed willingness to tackle the issue of political prisoners as a gesture of goodwill. Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu said the group would grant amnesty to some 30 Fatah-affiliated political prisoners held after the group took over the Gaza Strip in 2007. Fatah's Sha'ath, also speaking in Gaza, said preparations were underway to release dozens of Hamas prisoners being held in the West Bank.[48]

In March 2012 Mahmoud Abbas stated that there were no political differences between Hamas and Fatah as they had reached agreement on a joint political platform and on a truce with Israel. Commenting on relations with Hamas, Abbas revealed in an interview with Al Jazeera that "We agreed that the period of calm would be not only in the Gaza Strip, but also in the West Bank," adding that "We also agreed on a peaceful popular resistance [against Israel], the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders and that the peace talks would continue if Israel halted settlement construction and accepted our conditions."[49][50]

In December 2012, in the aftermath of the recent conflict in Gaza, calls for a unified Palestinian front have increased and the political leaders of Hamas and Fatah took several steps to reconcile their differences. In a televised address, PA President Mahmoud Abbas stressed that talks with Hamas would immediately follow the Palestinians' bid to upgrade their status at the UN General Assembly—an effort that succeeded.[48] On 13 December, Fatah allowed Hamas to hold its first rally in the West bank since 2007,[51] and on 4 January 2013, Hamas reciprocated by allowing Fatah supporters to hold a rally in Gaza for the first time since the civil war.[52] On 9 January, it was announced that Khaled Meshaal and Mahmoud Abbas were holding renewed reconciliation talks in Cairo led by Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi.[53]

In 2013, political analyst Hillel Frisch from Bar-Ilan University’s BESA Center, noted that "The PA is playing a double game...with regards to battling Hamas, there’s coordination if not cooperation with Israel. But on the political front, the PA is trying to generate a popular intifada.”[54]

In September 2013, Abbas admitted that he was under pressure from the US and Israel not to achieve unity with Hamas.[55]

Early Attempts

On March 23, 2008, Hamas and Fatah signed an agreement in Sana'a, Yemen that amounted to a reconciliation deal. It called for a return of the Gaza Strip to the pre-June 2007 situation, though this has not happened.[56] On November 8, 2008, Palestinian reconciliation talks due to be held in Cairo were called off on Saturday after Hamas announced a boycott in protest at the detention of hundreds of its members by president Mahmoud Abbas's security forces.[57]

After six rounds of reconciliation talks that resulted in failure. In early September 2010, Cairo put forward a new document. That envisioned general elections to be held in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in the first half of 2010, a reform of Palestinian security services under the Egyptian control and the release of political prisoners by both factions.[58] The agreement is stalled due to "inappropriate conditions."[59]

2011 Cairo agreement

Hamas and Fatah, among other Palestinian groups, held talks aimed at reconciling rival factions[60] for the first time in two years in February 2010. In March 2010, on the Doha Debates television show, representatives of Fatah and Hamas discussed the future of the Palestinian leadership.[61]

On April 27, 2011, representatives of the two factions announced an agreement,[62] mediated by Egypt, to form a joint caretaker government, with presidential and legislative elections to be held in 2012.[63] On May 4, 2011 at a ceremony in Cairo the agreement was formally signed by the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.[64][65] The accord provides for forming a "transitional" government of technocrats to prepare for legislative and presidential elections to the Palestinian Authority in one year. It also permits the entry of Hamas into the Palestine Liberation Organization and holding of elections to its Palestine National Council decision-making body. The Palestinian Authority continues to handle security in the West Bank, as does Hamas in Gaza. They will form a joint security committee to decide on future security arrangements. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu objected because Hamas still calls for the destruction of Israel. The United States said the new Palestinian government must recognize Israel, continue previous agreements with it and renounce violence.[66]

In June 2011, following the unity accord, negotiations proceeded regarding the formation of a unity government. Among the issues discussed were recognition of Israel, security, governance, relations with the West, and economic policy. Hamas had initially indicated that it wished to remain out of governance to focus on the more social work it conducted prior to its 2006 ascendancy, but it later retracted this statement. Negotiations were derailed over the issue of who would assume the position of Prime Minister, after Hamas rejected the appointment of current Palestinian Authority PM Salam Fayyad.[67]

2012 Doha agreement

Main article: Hamas–Fatah Doha agreement

The Doha deal, signed by Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashal in 2012, was described as a step forward in the stalled implementation of the Palestinian reconciliation agreement, signed in Cairo in April 2011.[68] On April 1, The reconciliation implementation however was described as "stalling",[1] with no progress on the joint elections scheme. In addition, the Fatah blamed Hamas that its security forces have set up roadblocks and arrested dozens of Fatah members and individuals in Gaza, whom they accused of “spreading rumors.”[1] In a letter to Binyamin Netanyahu in April 2012, Abbas expressed his regret that Israeli continued to oppose a reconciliation.[69][70]

See also


External links

  • Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine, by Jonathan Schanzer (2008)
  • "Analysis on the Legality of New PA Elections"
  • "Palestinian factions 'agree deal'"
  • "Abbas insists will hold elections"
  • "Review by the Reut Institute: Hamas Consolidates; Fatah Disoriented"
  • Haaretz 06.28.07
  • Frustration over Ramallah violence
  • Palestinian rivals: Fatah & Hamas
  • No agreement in Palestinian talks
  • Ynetnews 02.15.07
  • Gaza on the Verge of Civil War Andrew Lee Butters, TIME May 14, 2007
  • The Guardian May 14, 2007
  • Associated Press May 17, 2007
  • The Economist print edition, May 17, 2007
  • Amira Hass June 14, 2007
  • A selection of links and news concerning the Palestinian Basic Law

da:Palæstinensiske borgerkrig

hu:Fatah–Hamász konfliktus tr:Gazze Savaşı (2007)

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.