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8 Jan, 2009 16:21

Palestinians: united by a common enemy

Diplomatic moves are showing signs of success. Both Israel and Hamas are giving a cautious nod to a possible ceasefire agreement.

Nevertheless, more than a dozen Gaza residents have been killed and some 20 rockets were fired in the direction of Israel on Wednesday.

The West Bank city of Jericho is in the same country, but the atmosphere is completely different: no shootings, no tanks and no violence.

Hamas member Razi Ashur is busy sewing a pair of trousers for one of his clients. Watching the needle, his thoughts never wander far from the events unfolding in Gaza. He says he’s ready to join his brothers in Gaza at any moment; he’s just waiting for the order:

“Yes, there was fighting before between Hamas and Fatah, but today we are all one against our enemy – Israel. Sometimes you find two brothers fighting each other, but still, at the end of the day, they’re brothers.”

One year ago the streets of Jericho were on fire, but not because of the Israelis. The ‘brothers’ from Hamas and Fatah were killing each other to gain control of Gaza. The confrontation ended with a Hamas victory and thousands of Fatah supporters fled to the West Bank for refuge.

Today, Jericho’s Fatah leader, Hassan Abdullah, says they’re no longer here, they have returned to Gaza to fight against the Israelis:

“It is very bad what is happening in Gaza. We wanted to make peace with Israel, but now we don’t want to. If the situation continues, I’m ready to go to fight with Hamas against Israel. I think Israel wants to make problems between Hamas and Fatah.”

However, many in the West Bank believe there are deals being made behind the scenes between Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Autonomy, and the Israelis. Most holding such theores are too scared to voice their opinions, but Israeli peace activist Uri Avneri is not.

“Not only Mahmoud Abbas, but President Mubarak of Egypt and several other Arab states are almost openly collaborating with Israeli attacks, hoping to gain some advantage for themselves,” Avneri explains.

“I think they are playing a very dangerous game. The fury accumulating among the masses of Palestinians, including Arab citizens of Israel and the masses throughout the Arab world, is intense.”

But Israelis are not worried about violence in the West Bank, at least not now. They are afraid of a second front erupting along their northern border with Lebanon.

In the last few days, the Lebanese army and the United Nations have increased their patrols to prevent missiles being fired into Israel by Hezbollah fighters. And, if Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, gets his way, Gaza could just be the appetiser for the real showdown.