U.S. pressing Israel to bolster pro-Abbas forces in Gaza
Western officials and IDF disagree over effectiveness of forces loyal to Abbas in clashes with Hamas.
The United States is pressing Israel to help bolster security forces in the Gaza Strip that are loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Major General Keith Dayton, the U.S. security coordinator, recently discussed the function of the pro-Abbas Presidential Guard and National Security forces with senior Israeli officials.
The Americans believe that strengthening Abbas loyalists and deploying them in friction points along the north of the strip and Philadelphi route in Rafah will eventually improve the security situation.
Western officials who studied the battle near the Karni crossing last Tuesday concluded, contrary to the IDF's assessment, that Abbas' forces had performed well despite their losses and had succeeded in warding off a larger Hamas force. They found that Hamas had not won a decisive victory in the battles in the Strip and urged taking steps to strengthen the pro-Abbas forces.
A 470-strong Presidential Guard force, which had trained in Egypt, returned to Gaza last Tuesday via the Rafah crossing. Defense establishment sources said there was no need to coordinate the force's entry with Israel as the men were unarmed.
The defense establishment is undecided about helping to bolster the pro-Abbas forces and enabling Abbas to pay their wages. Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh is the main advocate for helping to strengthen the Abbas loyalists.
"The idea is to change the balance, which so far has leaned in Hamas' favor. Well-trained [pro-Abbas] forces could help tip the balance," Sneh told The Washington Post.
"We don't give them operative orders, that's Abbas' business," he added.
Defense officials rejected the IDF's evaluation that Abbas and his forces had lost the battle for control of the Gaza Strip and there was no point in helping them. The officials said the IDF was prejudiced against Fatah and its troops' capability, and that their evaluations were not based on a thorough examination of the battles.
However, there is also a controversy in the U.S. about the situation in the PA. Senior White House officials say Abbas' failure to handle the situation and his keeping away from Gaza reflect his inadequacy.
The IDF believes that Hamas has a considerable advantage over Fatah in the confrontation with Fatah in the Gaza Strip. "Hamas men are trained, equipped and more resolved than their Fatah counterparts, even if the latter outnumber them in weapons," an IDF source said.
The source said that senior defense officers identified with Fatah have taken their families out of the Gaza Strip for fear Hamas would harm them.
The head of the research division of Military Intelligence, Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, on Friday told the diplomatic corps that the Hamas modus operandi in Gaza was identical to that developed by Hezbollah in South Lebanon. "Hamas is taking over Fatah and Abbas' properties and equipment that the international community is bringing into Gaza," he said in an intelligence briefing at the Dan Hotel.