Report: Hamas Explores Breaking Unity, Forming Government in Gaza

Citing frustration with the newly formed unity government, a senior Hamas leader said Saturday that the group is considering forming its own government in Gaza led by Palestinian factions, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.

Hamas has begun consulting nationalist and Islamist factions in the Gaza Strip as it explores the possibility of forming a new government as the unity government has “failed to fill” a political vacuum in Gaza Strip, senior Hamas official Ahmad Youssef told Ma’an.

“We are talking about an all-faction leadership to prevent security chaos and solve the crisis of salaries for the Gaza Strip’s civil servants,” he said, as quoted by Ma’an. “There is a political vacuum in the Gaza Strip which creates the atmosphere for security chaos, taking into account that the national consensus government has not taken even a single step toward ending political disagreement.”

Yousef also said that newly appointed unity government prime minister Rami Hamdallah – not Hamas – is responsible for the increased rocket fire on Israel in recent weeks.

“[Hamdallah] can give orders to security services to intervene. Hamas is not ruling the Gaza Strip and so it’s not responsible for protecting borders,” he reportedly told Ma’an.

Yousef said Palestinian security forces have attempted to prevent rocket fire from Gaza, but had not been successful in curbing strikes.

“Israeli aggression motivates some response, and we can’t ask these bereaved people to stop,” Yousef said.

Members of the new unity government were officially sworn in on 2 June after seven years of separate Palestinian administrations in the West Bank and Gaza.

Since the formation of the government, there have been at least two major pressure points that have raised tensions around the unity – one over unpaid wages for Hamas government workers who were promised their salaries would be unfrozen when the unity government met in early June, but have yet to be paid and the other over security coordination with Israel which Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas recently described as “sacred”.

“In Gaza, there are ministries without budgets as well as ministers and employees who don’t receive salaries,” Yousef told Ma’an. “From a moral and national point of view, everybody should work to end this state.”

From its formation, the Israeli cabinet has rejected the unity government, saying it would not conduct peace negotiations with the Fatah-Hamas coalition, and urged the international community not to recognize it.

“I call on all responsible elements within the international community not to hurry to recognize the Palestinian government that Hamas is part of, and which relies on Hamas,” Israeli Prime Minister told his cabinet in early June, saying such a move would “strengthen terror”.

Tensions have soared across the region since 12 June, just 10 days after the government was formed, when three Israeli teenagers disappeared in the southern West Bank. Their disappearance triggered Operation Brother’s Keeper, a vast search and arrest operation across the West Bank during which Israeli authorities arrested hundreds of Palestinians and killed six.

Netanyahu has said Hamas is responsible for the killing of the three teenagers, but has not provided proof publicly for his accusation.

For the past week, as street clashes have rocked Jerusalem in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teen thought to have been killed as revenge for the three murdered Israeli teens, rocket exchanges between Israeli forces and Gaza fighters have seen a marked uptick.

On Friday, consultations were reportedly underway between Egypt and Hamas with the aim of stopping the Israeli escalation on Gaza.

A source within Hamas said Egyptian intelligence had actually negotiated a potential ceasefire, although no official statement was made on the matter.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said he told Egypt that Hamas did not stand behind heightening the tension and instead blamed Israel for the current escalation.

Netanyahu had earlier threatened to respond “forcefully” to rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, saying either Gazans stop these attacks or his ground troops would move.

(Middle East Eye – www.middleeasteye.net)

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