10 Years Since the Battle of Gaza: Hamas’s Bloody Rise to Power
June 10-15, 2007 marked one of the most consequential turning points in the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one whose ramifications have directly shaped the course of the conflict to this day. The broiling political tensions between Fatah and Hamas erupted in all-out civil war and fractured “Palestine” into two distinct entities: Gaza – controlled by Hamas – and the West Bank – controlled by Fatah.
Fatah was the establishment political party in Gaza; however Hamas, a terrorist organization, had won a legislative majority the previous year. In the months prior to the conflict, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, was under immense pressure, including economic sanctions, from the international community. They expected him to reign in Hamas’ newfound political power and ensure that the Palestinian government was united and willing to uphold the stipulations of the Oslo Accords.
Thus, Abbas consolidated his power through presidential decrees and threats of dismissal. Fatah and Hamas soon established competing security forces to maintain their respective holds on power. The effects of the sanctions began to take their toll as the Palestinian economy tanked. The government became isolated from the international community. Clashes broke out in December 2006, but Fatah security forces were ill-equipped to defend themselves.
Meanwhile, with Israel’s approval, the U.S., Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan began providing arms and training to Abbas’s presidential guard. Frustrated by Hamas’s unwillingness to abide by the conditions set forth by the international community, Abbas and the PLO developed a secret plan to unseat Hamas from power that involved announcing a state of emergency and dismissing the current cabinet, following which would be a new election.
Having been aware of Fatah’s plans, Hamas decided to make a preemptive strike against the ruling party on June 10, 2007. Over the next five days, Hamas rapidly took control of key Fatah installations including the Palestinian Preventive Security Service, through which Fatah had smuggled in military equipment from Israel and America.
On June 14th, Abbas announced an end to the Hamas-Fatah unity government. The next day, the Gaza Strip was completely under Hamas’ control and the Palestinian Authority was de facto divided in two. An estimated 118 people were killed and over 500 wounded during the fighting. The international community announced it would end its sanctions against the Abbas government while Egypt and Israel announced a blockade of Gaza.
Today, Gaza is still suffering from Hamas’ iron-fisted rule. Instead of using international aid to repair the destruction from the wars it provoked, Hamas uses the resources to recruit more terrorists, build more tunnels, and manufacture rockets. Meanwhile, Gaza’s water and electricity infrastructure are in an abysmal state and the U.N. has warned of an extreme humanitarian crisis in the next few years.
Unfortunately, as long as Hamas’s stated goal of destroying Israel remains, and as long as they continue to pursue their terrorist agenda, Israel and Egypt are compelled to maintain the blockade. Several attempts have been made at reconstituting the Hamas-Fatah unity government (the latest one of which was announced in January of this year) but all have so far failed. Thus, until Hamas is either overthrown or finally abandons its extremist ideology, the peace process is essentially dead in the water, and Gazans have little hope of their situation improving.