PLO deal to move bomb factories out of Gaza

Patrick Cockburn in Gaza City says Hamas will transfer to West Bank

"I was surprised when my interrogator told me that `if you want to make bombs, make them on the West Bank and not in Gaza'," said Ali, a member of the Islamic movement Hamas, who was briefly imprisoned last week by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority.

No one else is putting it quite so baldly, but the PLO chairman is on the verge of agreeing to stop arresting Islamic militants in Gaza in return for their promising to switch military operations to the West Bank.

Ali, bearded and in his 30s, said: "Personally, I don't approve of military operations inside the autonomous areas [of Gaza and Jericho] because they cause confrontations between us and Arafat. But I am in favour of operations inside Israel so long as they are carried out by people who are not from the autonomous area."

In the 10 days since two suicide bombers from Hamas and Islamic Jihad killed seven Israeli soldiers and an American just south of Gaza City, the confrontation between them and the Palestinian Authority has had the ingredients of civil war. Army and police raided nearly a thousand homes and arrested 300 suspects. Sheikh Sayed Abu Musameh, a senior Hamas leader engaged in talks with the Palestinian Authority, said Mr Arafat "is inflicting a collective punishment on the Islamic movement".

But the clampdown was suspended sooner than Israel and the US wanted. Not that it was ever likely that the arrests - mostly of political sympathisers and not military activists - would stop the suicide bombers. "It just won't work," says Raji Sourani, one of Gaza's leading lawyers and human rights activists. "We had the Israelis here for 27 years with their military courts and 6,000 Palestinians in prison, but they still couldn't control security. For real security you need a real peace."

Mr Sourani, who was arrested by Mr Arafat's police in February when he opposed the use of military courts, said the mood of Gaza Palestinians has changed as they have lost hope in the Oslo agreement. "I remember 20 May 1994 when the Islamic Jihad carried out an operation and killed two soldiers. Everybody in Gaza was extremely angry. At that time, the PLO, Israel and the US were all saying give peace a chance."

Almost everybody in Gaza outside the Palestinian Authority makes the same point. The enclave is, in effect, besieged. Every day Israeli soldiers put up more barbed wire to make it more difficult to get out. Few of the 75,000 Gazan workers can go to their jobs.

The real difficulty facing Mr Arafat in disarming Hamas and Islamic Jihad is not lack of force - he has 17,500 police and soldiers - but lack of popular support. Abdullah Hourani, a PLO executive committee member who has mediated between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, said: "Ask ordinary people in the streets and you will find them happy and glad about the bombings last week." Mr Hourani broke with Mr Arafat over the Oslo agreement in 1993 and believes Israel will leave the West Bank only under military pressure - a polite phrase for suicide bombings.

Mass arrests and summary sentences by the military court in Gaza over the past week have served to underline that the enclave is increasingly run in the tradition of authoritarian Arab regimes in Syria and Egypt. Mr Sourani says when he got a court order for the release of a client, the central prison governor refused to let him go. When Mr Sourani was detained in February the officers holding him said there were no charges and did not question him. The next day the general prosecutor simply explained: "The chairman [Arafat] is extremely angry."

News
Alex Salmond said he accepted 'the democratic verdict of the people'
newsSNP leader says Scotland must move forward as 'one nation'
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery Assistant Plymouth

£10000 - £20000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week