Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Thursday, March 11, 2004

Hamas striving for leadership in Gaza with looming Israeli pullout

The Islamic resistance movement Hamas has shown its intention to play a leading role in the Gaza Strip in case Israeli Prime Minister Ariel sharon implements his disengagement plan with the Palestinians.


The Islamic resistance movement Hamas has shown its intention to play a leading role in the Gaza Strip in case Israeli Prime Minister Ariel sharon implements his disengagement plan with the Palestinians.

The radical movement announced Tuesday that it would unveil a plan to administer the strip in the wake of an Israeli army pullout.

According to Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, founder and spiritual leader of the movement, the plan would focus on organizing and administering the Palestinians' economic and social life, as well as restoring order in the strip.

Even if the plan is still being formulated and would require theapproval of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), it has certainly indicated Hamas's intention to participate in the decision-making process.

The resistance movement's popularity and ambition has risen in light of the retreat of the Fatah movement's influence, particularly due to the inefficiency of the PNA to contain the security chaos in the Palestinian-controlled territories.

Since the outbreak of the intifada (uprising) in September 2000,Hamas has been responsible for a great number of attacks inside Israel and Jewish settlements established in the Palestinian territories.

These attacks were widely supported by the Palestinians and haveincreased Hamas's prestige for being the retaliator of the continuous Israeli army aggressions.

Meanwhile, Hamas has also gained popularity because of its refusal to a unilateral ceasefire called for by the PNA and the PNA's failure to attain any tangible outcomes from the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The recently announced Israeli unilateral evacuation plan from the Gaza Strip's Jewish settlements and the transfer of security responsibilities to the Palestinians has provided a great opportunity for Hamas to be integrated in the Palestinian decision-making process.

Earlier this week, senior Hamas representative Abdel-Aziz Al-Rantisi called for holding a Palestinian dialogue in order to approve a document which would guarantee the Palestinians' rights after Israel evacuates its settlements.

"The document will guarantee compensations for all those who have contributed to the Palestinian resistance, such as families ofprisoners and those who were killed by the Israeli army, and those who have helped in ousting the occupation from the strip," Al-Rantisi stated.

He added that Hamas would exert maximum effort in order to avertany kind of internal disputes or conflicts once Israel evacuates its settlements.

Hamas's intention to convert its wide popularity into power and its persistence to be acknowledged by the Fatah as a strong and growing movement were also reflected in other's statement.

Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas's political bureau, said Tuesday that "the brothers in the PNA and Fatah must recognize the reality of the changes and what is incumbent upon them, and they must accept genuine participation of the resistance factions and forces and go beyond the mentality of marginalizing them."

Observers said Hamas has passed the stage of showing its eternalopposition to the PNA and has started to interfere in the PNA's official positions, which shows Hamas's confidence and self-assessment within the Palestinian society.

The PNA, on the other hand, is aware of the growth of Hamas in the Palestinian arena and has started to accept the movement as a competitive power.

Mohammed Dahalan, former interior minister and member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, recently told the Ramallah-based Al Ayyam daily that "we have to view Hamas as a partner in the political future."

But Dahalan also made it clear that the Palestinian Authority has the sole right to take the decisions.

The PNA will have the final saying in the Gaza Strip after Israeli army's withdrawal, he stated. ��

Source: Xinhua

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