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World

Gaza's Fate Rests On Whether Hamas And Fatah Can Co-Exist

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Three weeks ago Hamas and Israel laid down arms after 50 days of fighting this summer, but feuding continues between the two main factions on the Palestinian side - Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip and Fatah in the West Bank. NPR's Emily Harris reports their battle has an impact on relations with Israel as well.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Thousands of government workers lined up at a Hamas-run bank in Gaza last week to get just parts of their salaries. Like most, teacher Ahmed Sahlem, hadn't been paid anything since March. He blamed Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

AHMED SAHLEM: Tell Abbas to give us our salary.

HARRIS: Gazan civil servants expected they would get paid when Hamas and Fatah united behind one Palestinian Authority government in June, ending a seven-year split. But Abbas still held the purse strings and hasn't paid civil servants in Gaza.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: He make the differentiation between Gaza Strip and West Bank.

HARRIS: For one Fatah loyalist, the feud between the factions goes well beyond money. From a hospital bed, a 28-year-old Gazan man says masked Hamas members shot him nine times in one leg.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Through translator) During the war, Hamas told me to stay in my house. One evening, I walked 200 yards away. I was shocked to find a car loaded with armed men who shot me.

HARRIS: He's interrupted by nurses to change his dressing. We wait in the hall, but can't avoid hearing his pain.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING)

HARRIS: The 28-year-old is a security guard for Fatah leaders in Gaza. He doesn't want his name used because he's fearful of more violence. His brother, Abdel Khadar, says Hamas sees anyone associated with Fatah as the enemy. Fatah's leadership, based in Ramallah in the West Bank, sometimes cooperates with Israel on security.

ABDEL KHADAR: (Through translator) Ramallah to Hamas means collaborators. It means interaction with Israel. My brother and colleagues might just say hello to someone in Ramallah on the phone and anyone who hears them says they are collaborators with the enemy.

HARRIS: A Fatah-Hamas team jointly negotiated the August cease-fire with Israel. But recently Fatah leader Abbas accused the Islamist group of not allowing his government to work in Gaza. Ahmed Yousef, a Hamas adviser in Gaza, says Abbas is creating animosity by alienating those who just battled Israel.

AHMED YOUSEF: This is not good, for a national leader to try to undermine what the people consider victory.

HARRIS: Not all Palestinians consider the war a victory, although many say Israel did not win either. Two recent polls have found Hamas leader, Ismail Haniya, as or more popular than Mahmoud Abbas. But Yousef says neither is the right leader now.

YOUSEF: We need somebody independent, nationalist, somebody intellectual, that he can lead us to achieve something for the whole Palestinian people.

HARRIS: One crucial difference between Hamas and Fatah is their approaches to Israel. Hamas has not renounced violence as a way to win a Palestinian state. Abbas has long promoted negotiations over fighting. Fatah foreign affairs adviser Husam Zomlot says both ways have failed.

HUSAM ZOMLOT: Negotiations on own, bilateral track with Israel, on its own will not produce the results. But equally so, military resistance on its own will not achieve its results. We must sit, and we must decide, together, what next, given the failure at all fronts

HARRIS: One Hamas suggestion - jointly embrace both, talks backed by the threat of violence. Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.