Claims of killings in a divided Hamas

GAZA CITY: At 2am on July 16 last year, Mohammed Warshara was woken by a phone call from Hamas, the militant Islamic resistance movement that controls the Gaza Strip.”They told me my son had been found in a tunnel in Rafah [the city that borders Gaza’s border with Egypt],” Mr Warshara told the Herald.At the time a prominent leader of the military wing of Hamas, the al-Qassam Brigades, if Munir were alive today he would be 37.”They said Munir had been shot by the Egyptian border police,” Mr Warshara said. ”But this was not possible. His body was on the Gaza side of the border. He could not have been shot in this way and found where he was.”Whatever the precise circumstances of Munir’s death, it appears certain he was the victim of a bitter quarrel within Hamas.As Hamas strives to maintain its authority over Gaza’s 1.5 million residents three years after winning control of the territory from its secular political rival, Fatah, Munir’s death is an example of an increasingly violent internal power struggle raging within the movement.Inside Gaza, rumours abound of bodies turning up in smugglers’ tunnels, their deaths blamed on ”digging accidents”, or lying near the border with Israel, apparent victims of Israeli sniper fire.One disaffected Hamas insider, who spoke to the Herald on the condition of anonymity, showed a list identifying more than 20 people who had been killed over the past 12 months.”They say they die from accidents, but they have clearly died from many gunshots or they show signs of being beaten and tortured,” the source said.According to Mr Warshara, his son was executed because he disagreed with the way Hamas was distributing aid money to victims of last year’s war with Israel. He has six other sons who are members of Hamas who want to leave the movement but have been threatened with acts of retaliation if they do.”Munir wanted the money to be distributed equally to all people who needed it. The other Hamas leaders wanted to give the money only to other members of Hamas, or keep the money for themselves,” Mr Warshara said.In the sitting room of his home in Beit Lahiya, Mr Warshara broke down as he unfurled a banner that had been produced by Hamas in honour of his son.Bearing a large portrait of Munir, the banner reads: ”The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, considers its son Sheikh Munir Mohammed Warshara as a martyr”.”The men who killed my son, they came to his funeral,” an anguished Mr Warshara said. ”They cried at his funeral, yet they were the ones who killed him.”As if to emphasise his son’s level of commitment, and his own commensurate sense of betrayal, Mr Warshara produced photographs showing a swag of weapons that Munir smuggled into Gaza before his death.So proud was Mr Warshara of his son’s accomplishments, that he and other members of the family had posed for photographs with the weapons caches, which included rocket-propelled grenade launchers, machineguns, automatic rifles and hand grenades.Mr Warshara said he refuses to be intimidated by threats from senior Hamas members that he keep silent. ”I want the world to know what Hamas is doing to people who do not agree with them,” Mr Warshara said.The executive director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Raji Sourani, who has won numerous international awards for his work as a human rights lawyer inside Gaza, said an unmistakable scent of tension hangs over Hamas.”You can smell it,” he said this week. ”We hear stories of violence within the movement, only stories, but we are limited in what we can do to investigate these rumours.”In the words of Sayyed Salem Abu Musameh, one of the seven founding members of Hamas, who is now a member of its ruling Shura council, the Islamist movement is a house divided between ”doves” and ”hawks”.The doves, or pragmatists, Dr Abu Musameh said, are interested in talking to and negotiating with the Israelis and maintaining the ceasefire that has been in place since the end of last year’s war. The hawks want a return to armed confrontation.The most pragmatic of all is Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the Hamas government in Gaza.The hardliners are led by such men as Khaled Meshaal, chairman of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus, and Mahmoud Zahar, another co-founder of Hamas, who serves as the Foreign Minister in Mr Haniyeh’s government.Describing himself as a dove, Dr Abu Musameh said he has long argued that firing rockets into Israel, or sending suicide bombers to kill Israeli civilians, was against Hamas’s interests.”I have lived with the Israelis for a long time,” Dr Abu Musameh said. A former tailor, Dr Abu Musameh said he had traded with Jewish businessmen in Israel for decades.”I know and respect many Jewish people, I have seen their faces. But the young people who are joining the military wings, they do not have this experience. They only know them through the war, and the uprisings. They know Hamas has rearmed itself and they see no reason for continuing with the ceasefire.”Despite the evident tensions, Dr Abu Musameh discounted claims that Hamas is in any danger of splitting. ”These tensions have been present since the very beginning,” he said.Yet the longer the ceasefire continues, the more men such as a former Hamas fighter, Abu Mousab, are being tempted to sign up with more radical Islamist groups operating inside Gaza.A former mathematics student at the Islamic University of Gaza, Abu Mousab, now 25, said he joined Hamas while he was studying, but recently left after becoming disaffected with its political strategy.Asked whether Hamas was in danger of tearing itself apart, Abu Mousab said: ”Yes. In a big way.” Before leaving, Abu Mousab said a poll was conducted among the al-Qassam brigade members in northern Gaza, and about 90 per cent of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the Hamas’s leadership.Abu Mousab estimated that about 15 per cent of brigade members have since left to join other more radical groups, although a large minority has stayed on to try change Hamas from within. ”The things that made [Fatah] hated in Gaza, these are the things that Hamas is doing now,” he said.As well as the obvious political tensions, Akram Atallah, a Gaza columnist for the Fatah-aligned newspaper Al-Ayyam, said there is also a struggle over religious values. ”Some people want to turn Gaza into a more conservative Islamic state, others are resisting this, believing that things have gone far enough and that Hamas risks alienating the majority here …”I don’t believe that Hamas is yet at the breaking point. But that does not mean that we will not see more violent confrontations within.”THE HAMAS STORYDecember 1987: First intifada, or Palestinian uprising. Formation of Hamas, an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement, is announced.1992: Hamas says it has formed an armed wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.1993: Hamas rejects the Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).1997: Israel’s secret intelligence service, Mossad, fails to assassinate a rising Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, in Jordan.2004: Israel assassinates the Hamas founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.2004: Less than a month later, Israel assassinates Yassin’s successor, Abdel Aziz Rantissi. Meshaal, now in Damascus, succeeds him.2005: Israel conducts a unilateral withdrawal of all Israeli settlers living in the Gaza Strip.2006: Hamas wins parliamentary majority in first elections in Palestinian territories in a decade.June 2006: Hamas abducts the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.June 2007: Hamas wrests control of Gaza from Fatah.. Israel and Egypt impose a blockade on Gaza in response.December 2008: Israel launches Operation Cast Lead aimed at ending Hamas’s capacity to fire rockets into Israel. Since 2002, Hamas had fired thousands of rockets, killing more than 20 people. 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis are killed.June 2010: Israel and Egypt ease the Gaza blockade after Israeli troops storm a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, killing nine people.
Nanjing Night Net