Senior members of Hamas and Fatah met in Syria Tuesday to discuss the possibility of reconciliation. The talks followed an earlier meeting in September.
The meeting was originally scheduled for October, but was delayed due to a diplomatic dispute between Syria and the Palestinian Authority. PA Chairman Abbas and Syrian President Bashar Assad clashed during an Arab League meeting in Libya, when Assad called on Abbas to make decisions without Arab League input, and told him to encourage terrorism instead of discussing a construction freeze.
This failed round of discussions focused on the sensitive subject of “security forces.” Both the Fatah-led PA and the breakaway Hamas PA in Gaza employ tens of thousands of men as armed police. While the men are termed “police” or “security forces,” they undergo military training, and acted as militias during the 2007 battle between the two rival groups over controlling Gaza.
Hamas head in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh said, “The atmosphere is complicated, it has not been easy to discuss the hardest of all subjects, the issue of the security forces.”
Fatah refuses to let Hamas have its own security power in the PA territories A senior Fatah official said last week that if Hamas and Fatah were to reconcile, Hamas terrorists would get PA protection, and could even be included in PA forces. Previously the PA has integrated members of rebel terrorist groups such as the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades into its armed police units.
Hamas leaders in Gaza made a gesture towards reconciliation on Wednesday, visiting the families of Fatah terrorists who died fighting Israel. However, at the same time, Hamas officials banned Fatah from holding planned rallies in Gaza in memory of former Fatah head Yasser Arafat and allegedly arrested many Fatah supporters who might have taken part in them.