Fatah Cancels Arafat Commemorations in Gaza

Tensions reach new heights as official says Hamas refused to provide security for event to mark 10 years since death of Yasser Arafat.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Memorial rally for Arafat
Memorial rally for Arafat
Flash 90

Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement said Sunday it is cancelling this week's Gaza ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death due to security concerns.

Gaza-based Fatah spokesman Fayez Abu Eita told AFP that Hamas said it could not guarantee security at the memorial events scheduled for Tuesday.  

The announcement comes after at least 10 explosions hit houses and cars belonging to senior Fatah members in Gaza on Friday, reportedly without causing any casualties.

Hamas security confirmed in a statement that it had informed Fatah that it was unable to guarantee the event's security.  

Friday's blasts brought a furious response from Fatah, which placed the blame squarely on Hamas, the de facto rulers in Gaza.  PA unity government prime minister Rami Hamdallah, who had been due to visit Gaza on Saturday, promptly cancelled his trip in response.

One of the explosions targeted a stage in Gaza City set up for a ceremony in honour of veteran Palestinian leader Arafat, who founded Fatah.

This year was the first time in years a public commemoration of Arafat's death was to have been held in Gaza, which has been ruled by Hamas since 2007 when it ousted forces loyal to Fatah, sparking a bitter and sometimes bloody feud.

Hamas's notice that it would not be able to guarantee security at the commemorations will be taken as an implicit claim of responsibility - further deteriorating already-strained relations with Fatah.

Iyad al-Buzum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said security for the memorial could not be guaranteed because of "intra-Palestinians tensions", as well as "logistic and administrative difficulties" which he blamed on Hamdallah.

He specifically blamed the unity government for failing since its formation to pay the salaries of Gaza security personnel.

The instance marks yet another crack in the facade of the Hamas-Fatah "unity government," which has been slowly crumbling over the past several months - despite recent efforts to present a "united front" to the international community. 

Differences of opinion have surfaced over several issues, including the war in Gaza, reactions to the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers, and the delayed payment of wages for government workers in Gaza in the weeks leading up to Operation Protective Edge. 

Tensions worsened after Hamas publicly executed dozens of Gazans allegedly "collaborating with Israel," but whom Fatah officials say were in fact members of their group singled out for their political affiliation. That incident prompted one Fatah official to compare Hamas to global jihadist group Islamic State (ISIS).

Not long beforehand, the IDF and the Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet) exposed a large-scale coup had been planned by Hamas in Judea and Samaria to overthrow the PA and Abbas's Fatah party, under orders given from Hamas officials abroad. 

Since then, Hamas has also refused the PA's demands that it let it supervise rebuilding in Gaza - furthering sowing discord between the two factions. It was also Fatah who exposed Hamas's human trafficking operation of Gaza residents to Europe in October. 

AFP contributed to this report.