Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Informed Palestinian sources have revealed that major disputes between officials in the Fatah movement’s armed divisions in Gaza are preventing the unification of these factions under a single name and leadership. The sources stress that these disputes have developed lately, and have led to splits within Fatah armed groups, and the formation of other groups that receive financial support and guidance from Iran and Hezbollah.
The sources asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat that, “major efforts were exerted in the past few months to unify these various armed groups under the banner of the Fatah leadership; however, these efforts have failed.”
The sources also stated that the disagreements have escalated to the degree that splits have taken place within some of the better-known and stronger Fatah armed factions.
“One of the officials of the well-known Ayman Judah groups, has split from them, and formed new groups under the name of “Abdul-Qadir al-Husseini Battalions,” and now he is trying to attract dozens of armed men from the other formations.” The sources added.
According to the sources, this official recently met with leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – IRGC] and from Hezbollah in Lebanon, and then he returned to the Gaza Strip and announced his split from the groups to which he belonged, and which also were supported in the past by Hezbollah. After that he formed his new group, and is now doing his utmost to expand its base.
The sources went on to say that the same official has held meetings with current and former leaders of Fatah formations, including the Al-Ansar Battalions, Al-Mujahidin, Imad Mughniyah Groups (Imad Mughniyah is the Hezbollah military commander who was assassinated in Syria some years ago), Ahmad Abu-al-Rish Groups, and the formations of Jihad Al-Imarayn Brigade, and is trying to reach an agreement with them, but the picture is not yet clear.
Fatah officials have confronted such attempts in the past, specifically in the Ayman Judah Groups. These officials want to unify the armed men of the movement under the banner of the Fatah movement’s central command following promises by Fatah to sponsor these groups. However, this seems extremely difficult in the light of what the sources describe as “IRGC ambitions and support, and Hezbollah, both of which are supporting financially, in a big way, the formation of groups that are loyal to them.”
According to these sources, the situation has reached the level of clashes in the streets between elements of Ayman Judah Groups and elements of the new Abdul-Qadir al-Husseini Battalions in front of hundreds of citizens. This took place more than a week ago after sharp arguments, and the police of the dismissed Gaza Government arrested large numbers from both sides, and then released them later on.
Fatah in Gaza suffers from the lack of a military framework, contrary to Hamas that is represented militarily by Izzaldin al-Qassam Brigades, and Jihad Movement that is represented militarily by Al-Quds Battalions.
Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the, “Late President Yasser Arafat had been sponsoring Al-Aqsa Battalions in Fatah, but at the end of his era cracks started to emerge after the former leading member Muhammad Dahlan tried to sponsor some of these groups. After Mahmud Abbas (Abu-Mazin) assumed the presidency in 2005, the splits increased, and the situation became worse when Fatah dismantled Al-Aqsa Battalions, and hence its members started to look for sources of funding.”
Now, Fatah does not officially sponsor any armed groups, and it even worked to dismantle officially the Al-Aqsa Battalions years ago, and referred its members in the West Bank to the Palestinian security organizations. Fatah has tried to do the same in the Gaza Strip. Fatah military officials in Gaza have confirmed previously to Asharq Al-Awsat that they were receiving support from Hezbollah and Iran, and they were not receiving any support from Fatah leadership in the West Bank or Gaza.