While Mahmoud Abbas’s faction of the PLO has, by and large, refrained from attacks on Israelis in the past several years, there are now signs that that is about to change, even as some Fatah elements have split off in loathing for the PA president himself. Khaled Abu Toameh writes:
The armed wing of Fatah, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, announced [recently] that its members have been enrolled in a new military academy for training “fighters” in the Gaza Strip . . . “in the context of a program for preparing for any future battle” with the “Zionist enemy.” . . .
[There are several] Fatah-affiliated militias that continue to operate in the Gaza Strip despite Hamas’s violent takeover of the area in the summer of 2007. These groups pose no threat to the Hamas regime, which is why they are allowed to operate freely. . . Their express purpose is to prepare for war with Israel and launch terror attacks against Israelis. Hamas, however, which expelled their leaders from the Gaza Strip and continues to persecute dozens of Fatah activists there, is not on their hit list. . . .
These groups believe that they represent the real Fatah, the one that never recognized Israel’s right to exist and holds on to armed struggle as the only way to “liberate Palestine.” . . .
The power play among Fatah militias in Gaza reflects the wider division among Fatah’s political leaders. According to Palestinian sources, Fatah leaders in the strip have dissociated themselves from the faction’s leadership in the West Bank. Abbas’s aides blame exiled Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan for the schism. . . . [Recently], thousands of Fatah members who are loyal to Dahlan staged a large demonstration in the Gaza Strip against Abbas. During the protest, they burned and trampled on pictures of the PA president.