In Boost to Gaza Reconciliation Efforts, Palestinian Factions Meet to Compensate Bereaved Families of Hamas-Fatah Clashes

Hundreds meeting in Gaza on Thursday night as part of reconciliation event based on Sharia law; Fatah’s Mohammed Dahlan has raised $50,000 for each family

Hamas security officials using batons to detain Fatah supporters during clashes in Gaza City on Sept. 7, 2007.
AP

Hundreds of senior Hamas officials, associates of former senior Fatah figure Mohammed Dahlan and dozens of relatives of those killed as a result of violent clashes between Hamas and Fatah in 2007 are set to meet in Gaza on Thursday. The gathering is being billed as a reconciliation event between families associated with Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

The event is based on the tradition in Islamic Sharia law through which families of victims receive monetary compensation in exchange for waiving claims against those responsible for killing or wounding their loved ones.

The Palestinian split followed parliamentary elections in 2006 in which Hamas beat Fatah – the party associated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat – in Gaza. Following the election, clashes ensued between factions and clans associated with the two sides, culminating in a bloody battle the following year in which Hamas took over the Gaza Strip and ousted the PA from the enclave.

A total of 356 people, most of whom were identified with Fatah, were killed in the clashes, including 160 who died between June 10 and June 15, 2007 – the period when Hamas assumed control of the Gaza Strip.

The legacy of those deaths is considered one of the thorniest issues that needs to be resolved if there is to be a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah (which controls the PA in the West Bank).

Beyond the political significance of the deaths, there are also aspects relating to clan identity and social ties. The families of those who died on both sides have been seeking to identify the responsible parties for the deaths of their loved ones.

The issue was also a major topic during earlier reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah, and was included in a reconciliation agreement the two sides signed in Cairo in 2011 (but which ultimately failed to be implemented).

There have also been unsuccessful attempts in recent years to address the families’ concerns. In recent months, though, following understandings developed between Hamas and Dahlan – who has major support in Gaza and is a major adversary of Abbas – a plan was ironed out for meetings to reach an agreement based on Sharia law and tribal customs.

Fatah's Mohammed Dahlan in his office in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, October 18, 2016.
Jack Jabbour / Reuters

Dahlan, who has the support of the United Arab Emirates, has managed to raise the necessary sums to provide an estimated $50,000 in compensation to each family. One senior Hamas official, Ismail Radwan, said recently that it would require an estimated $50 million to provide compensation to the families of those killed plus those wounded – some of whom are unable to work due to their injuries. Hamas has spoken of about 800 wounded.

Work on the issue began several weeks ago in Khan Yunis and will continue in the coming months. Some families have already been involved in the process, while others have yet to submit necessary information to the official reconciliation panel.

This week, Saleh Bardawil, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, told the Palestinian Maan news agency that all of the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip are taking part in the reconciliation effort.

The committee responsible for the families’ claims has already made considerable progress in coming to understandings with the families, which in turn is contributing greatly to diffusing tensions and furthering Palestinian national reconciliation, Bardawil said.

Haaretz has learned that Bardawil and Majed Abu Shamaleh, a member of Dahlan’s camp, are slated to attend Thursday evening’s event.

The PA in the West Bank is following developments and is not publicly opposing the effort, with Fatah officials saying it might lead to diffusing tensions within the Gaza Strip among families and clans. But they expressed doubt over whether it would promote overall national reconciliation, in light of the manner in which it is being carried out and fact that it involves funds raised by Abbas’ rival, Dahlan.

Unconnected to the family reconciliation process, a delegation headed by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has been in Cairo this week for a series of meetings with Egyptian intelligence officials. A Fatah delegation headed by a member of the party’s central committee, Azzam al-Ahmad, is also due to arrive in the Egyptian capital on Friday for meetings with Egyptian intelligence representatives.

At this stage, it is not clear if the Egyptians will bring the two delegations together, in an effort to revive the reconciliation process and push for the implementation of the provision of the 2011 agreement.

That agreement was supposed to produce a national unity government, lay the groundwork for presidential and parliamentary elections, and lead to a solution of matters under dispute. These include the status of tens of thousands of government bureaucrats whom Hamas appointed in the Gaza Strip to replace PA staff and the issue of control of border crossings in and out of Gaza.