Fatah and Hamas: Heading for a Showdown in Lebanon

[TIME] Andrew Lee Butters and Rami Aysha - There has been a collapse of support for Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah in Lebanon, home to the most politically active population of Palestinians outside of the West Bank and Gaza, leading many to transfer their support to Hamas and other radical Islamist groups. Hamas uses its financial backing from Iran to build clinics, kindergartens, and social services centers in every refugee camp, and Hamas supporters get vouchers for medical care at hospitals run by Hizbullah. And the refugees hear stories about leaders in the West Bank growing rich from embezzled international aid. "Hamas is taking advantage of this. They are entering deep, deep into the population," says the Beirut Fatah commander. In Lebanon the two sides are preparing for confrontation. Fatah officials accuse Hamas of secretly plotting a takeover of the camps in Lebanon in the same way that the movement took control of Gaza in 2007. By agreement of the Arab League, Palestinian camps lie outside of the jurisdiction of the Lebanese state, so control of the camps would allow Hamas to train and operate largely without interference. Moreover, unlike in Gaza, in Lebanon Hamas could easily receive weapons by sea, or by land from Syria, or with help from Hizbullah. A Hamas victory in Lebanon could be the beginning of the end of Fatah.

2009-02-26 06:00:00

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