Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST Nov. 29, 2007
Fatah will fight alongside Hamas if and when the IDF launches a military operation in the Gaza Strip, a senior Fatah official in Gaza City said Thursday.
"Fatah won't remain idle in the face of an Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip," the official said. "We will definitely fight together with Hamas against the Israeli army. It's our duty to defend our people against the occupiers."
The Fatah official said his faction would place political differences aside and form a joint front against Israel if the IDF enters the Gaza Strip. "The homeland is more important than all our differences," he said.
The statements came amid reports that some Arab countries were planning to resume mediation efforts between Fatah and Hamas to avoid further deterioration in the aftermath of the Annapolis peace conference.
According to the reports, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have decided to invite representatives of Fatah and Hamas for talks on ways of ending their power struggle.
A senior Palestinian official who visited Cairo this week said the Egyptians and Saudis have reached the conclusion that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas won't be able to move forward with the peace talks with Israel without solving his problems with Hamas.
The official said Abbas had given his blessing to Cairo and Riyadh to resume their efforts to end the crisis with Hamas.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak phoned Abbas Thursday and discussed with him the results of the Annapolis conference and the possibility of resuming negotiations between Fatah and Hamas. Abbas is currently on a visit to Tunisia, where he is expected to brief veteran PLO officials on the outcome of the conference.
Earlier this week, the Egyptian government gave permission to several pro-Palestinian organizations in Egypt to send truckloads of food and medicine to the Gaza Strip. The trucks are scheduled to arrive in the Gaza Strip on Friday through the Rafah border crossing, which remains closed to travelers.
Hamas, meanwhile, is bracing for a massive IDF operation to halt the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip.
Sources in the Gaza Strip said Hamas's security forces have been placed on full alert and most of the movement's senior leaders have gone into hiding for fear of being targeted by Israel. In addition, Hamas has evacuated many of its security and civil institutions.
Hamas leaders on Thursday tried to establish a link between the Annapolis conference and a potential IDF attack on the Gaza Strip. They said the latest escalation, which claimed the lives of some 20 Hamas members over the past week, was directly linked to the conference.
Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan said Israel was stepping up its military operations in the Gaza Strip to cover up for the "failure" of the Annapolis conference. He said the thousands of Palestinians who demonstrated against the conference over the past few days in the West Bank indicated that a majority of the public were opposed to Annapolis.
Hamas legislator Mushir al-Masri said the killing of six Hamas activists over the past 48 hours was one of the direct results of the Annapolis conference.
"The Annapolis conference has failed," he said. "This conference was nothing but an attempt to impose the American and Israeli agenda on the Palestinians. The conference also gave a green light to Israel to launch a big military operation in the Gaza Strip."
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