The current Fatah-Hamas rapprochement has led to the Gaza-based Hamas making inroads into the West Bank, the stronghold of Fatah and its head, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Fatah allowed Hamas to organize mass-rallies in several cities in the West Bank on Dec. 13. The gatherings were a celebration of the terror organization’s 25thanniversary, an event marked in Gaza the previous week. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal vowed to “never recognize Israel” in a speech delivered on a podium shaped like a long-range missile of the type Hamas fired at Tel Aviv during Operation Pillar of Defense.
The rhetoric in Nablus, a large city in the West Bank, was equally belligerent. Hamas-supporters took to the streets, waving Islamic flags and plastic rockets, while loud speakers announced the goal of the Palestinian population under Hamas leadership is “to die in the name of God… Create a volcano among the Israelis." Fatah-controlled police observed the demonstrations without interfering.
The Hamas Charter outlines a consistent and ideology-driven desire to seek Israel’s destruction: “Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims.” And so, “Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.”
In the past five years, Fatah has not allowed Hamas to openly operate in the West Bank, but following Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ successful United Nations bid in November, the two factions are seemingly restarting their reconciliation process. At the Nablus rally, Fatah Revolutionary Council Secretary-General Amin Maqbul praised Hamas for having “given thousands of martyrs, prisoners and wounded for Palestine.”
Since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense, there has been a surge of violence in the West Bank, especially in the mixed city Hebron, and the Israeli army remains on high alert.