In Gaza, power cuts and rumours hamper reconciliation (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Selim Saheb Ettaba 04/01/12)
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A smart white villa with a red roof sits uninhabited but under close
guard in Gaza City, awaiting the return of its owner, Fatah head and
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Members of the Hamas government´s security services surround the
building, which fell into their hands when long-running tensions
between rival factions Hamas and Fatah boiled over into full-blown
conflict in the summer of 2007.
The Islamist group routed Abbas´s Fatah movement, forcing it to cede
control of the Gaza Strip, including the property.
"There´s no one inside," says one Hamas guard with a close-cropped
In January, Hamas announced it would return the building to Abbas,
but with a reconciliation deal between Fatah and the Islamist group
stalling, the chances of the leader returning to the territory to
reclaim the property seem slim.
"It´s ready for a visit, today if necessary," the guard says, with a
Hamas and Fatah agreed last year to reconcile, signing a deal that
called for the quick formation of a consensus government, which would
pave the way for presidential and legislative elections by around May
But the process has hit repeated roadblocks, with the formation of
the interim government proving particularly thorny.
Gaza´s worsening electricity crisis, caused by a lack of fuel
supplies that has plunged the territory into darkness in recent
months, has soured the atmosphere further.
Charges of conspiracy are rife, and Hamas security forces have set up
roadblocks and arrested dozens of Fatah members and individuals they
accuse of "spreading rumours."
Fatah has protested the detention or summons to interrogation
of "hundreds" of its members, including its spokesman in Gaza.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, based in the coastal
enclave, said in a statement last week that it was "gravely
concerned" by the summons issued to at least 80 Fatah members.
"They said that they were mainly questioned on allegations of their
factional role against the government in Gaza in light of the power
crisis," the centre said.
Hamas´s interior ministry has acknowledged the arrest of more than
one hundred people for "propagating rumours about the electricity and
"There are people who say that official in Gaza are not suffering
from this crisis, that´s not true," Gaza´s energy authority spokesman
Ahmad Abu al-Amrin said. "The electricity shortage in Gaza is
Gaza´s only power plant shuddered to a halt on March 23, just 48
hours after Israel delivered 450,000 litres of fuel paid for by
Abbas´s Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank, with Hamas
denouncing what it called a "conspiracy."
"US, Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Ramallah are working together
to overthrow Hamas and tighten the blockade on Gaza," Hamas leader
Khalil al-Hayya announced.
The statement was the most provocative and explicit jab made since
the signing of the reconciliation deal by the two sides on April 27,
2011 in Cairo.
Elsewhere in Gaza City, another smart villa lies quiet -- the Gaza
headquarters of the Central Election Commission.
Its local director Jamil al-Khaldi is waiting for the green light
from the head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, to
begin key work to prepare for elections, including updating voter
"We have around 540,000 registered voters in the Gaza Strip, and we
need to register close to 220,000 new ones" to update electoral lists
that are nearly five years old.
The commission´s president Hanna Nasser met with Haniya two months
"Since then, Dr Nasser has sent him two letters seeking permission to
open the centres to update the electoral lists," Khaldi said.
"Until now, we´ve received no response, neither positive nor
On Hamas´s television station, the electricity crisis is noted with a
little lightbulb icon that runs over all programmes in the top left-
hand corner of the screen.
It flickers slightly then goes out, its weak light faltering like the
prospects for reconciliation as seen from Gaza. (Copyright © 2012
Agence France Presse. 04/01/12)
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