The Palestinian Hamas-led government has ordered on Friday its fighters off Gaza’s streets in the wake of deadly clashes with the Fatah movement that stirred fears of civil war in the Gaza Strip.
The order came only a day after the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, gave Hamas a ten-day ultimatum to back a proposal of statehood that implicitly recognizes Israel or face a referendum on the issue. The proposal calls for a peace settlement if Israel withdraws from all of the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, occupied since the 1967 Middle East war.
The plan was drawn up in an Israeli jail by prisoners from factions including Hamas and Fatah.
Hamas legislative council member Anwar Zboun responded to the proposal in an interview with IMEMC reporters, saying, "As for this proposal – it is not new, it is both old and new. It was first suggested in 1997 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who proposed this compromise to the Israeli Occupiers when he told them ‘We can reach a long-term truce under certain conditions: withdrawal to the borders of 1967, release of the Palestinian political detainees, an end to assassinations and recognition of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. Now the ball is in the Israelis’ court. The Israeli side should start implementing these steps first before we recognize Israel or talk about comprehensive peace in the region."
Youssef Al Zahar, a leader of the 3,000-strong Hamas force in the Gaza Strip, said the interior minister had given the men their orders to withdraw from the streets of Gaza and to concentrate on certain location in order to be ready to intervene when needed to confront chaos.
Hamas officials confirmed the order and said that it comes to reduce tension with Fateh movement.
Since Hamas deployed its security force in Gaza last week, clashes between its members and Fateh members became more frequent. Government officials said that the new force will not be dissolved, but will be integrated in regular police units.