Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas (R) are preparing to take control of Rafa's border crossing between Gaza and Egypt on January 7, 2019 while Palestinian Authority (L) staff withdraws from orders from President Mahmud Abbas
The decade-long Palestinian split seems to be deepened in the coming months, with President Mahmud Abbas ready to take several measures against Gaza to oust his Muslim rulers Hamas.
The relocations raise concerns about more suffering for Gaza's two million residents, who are already under an Israeli blockade and are facing severe electricity shortages, while a cornered Hamas can renew violence against Israel.
Analysts say the measures will also increase the gap between Hamas-run Gaza and the occupied West Bank, where the Abbas government has limited self-government.
Hamas and the secular Fatah party of Abbas have taken it astray since the Islamists took control of Gaza from the Abbas troops in an almost civil war in 2007, a year after sweeping parliamentary elections.
Hamas has since had three bloody wars with Israel and the fear of a fourth left.
A Hamas security guard at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt inspects a portrait of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas (R), who ordered the Palestinian Authority staff to depart in the first of a series of threatened measures against Islamists
Multiple reconciliation attempts between the Palestinian factions failed, but Egypt thought it had reached a breakthrough by the end of 2017 when the two parties agreed to eventually share power.
As part of that agreement, Hamas withdrew from border crossings between Gaza and Egypt and Israel, allowing the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority to return and the Egyptian border to be reopened regularly.
The reconciliation agreement has now collapsed with hesitation.
On Sunday, the PA announced to withdraw from the Egyptian border crossing and create a dilemma for Cairo about whether to leave it open with Hamas in control.
So far they have indicated that they will.
Senior officials near Abbas say he is looking for other measures to punish Hamas.
– & # 39; Key decisions & # 39; –
This includes the removal of personnel from the border crossings between Israel and Gaza – making it difficult for the Jewish state to allow something in the area without dealing directly with Hamas, which labels it and many other countries a terrorist organization.
They may also include salary reductions to families of Hamas prisoners or revoke Palestinian passports for Hamas employees.
Abbas also promised to dissolve the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Parliament, which despite the fact that it has not yet met since the split of 2007, is still the basis for new laws.
Thousands of Fatah supporters mark the anniversary of the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat with a demonstration in Hamas-governed Gaza on November 11, 2017, which was billed as a show of unity after a now abandoned reconciliation deal between the rivals
"Very important decisions against Hamas are being discussed," said a senior official on condition of anonymity.
It follows a series of arrests of those associated with Fatah in Gaza, according to Abbas allies.
The official said the PA spent about $ 100 million a month in Gaza, including for electricity subsidies, and was looking for significant contraction.
"Those who want to control Gaza must be responsible for driving it", the official said.
Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior Abbas ally and negotiator of the 2017 reconciliation agreement, told AFP "the management is considering a number of measures".
Senior Hamas officer Bassem Naim said that Islamists had seen similar threats before.
"All kinds of sanctions such as electricity, preventing medicines, closing the border or lowering salaries are meant to blackmail residents to stand up to Hamas and they fail," he told AFP.
"This is the most that Abbas can do."
– & # 39; Short-term thinking & # 39; –
The Palestinians have had great challenges in the last two years, with the US President Donald Trump as leader of what he has called the most pro-Israeli government in the history of the country.
The right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has meanwhile continued to expand settlements on the West Bank.
Abbas & # 39; s government froze contacts with the Trump government after it recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017.
The increasing gap between the two factions weakened their ability to respond to such pressures, said Hugh Lovatt of the think-tank of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
He said that the withdrawal of the PA from the border crossings was part of a "package of measures to try to squeeze Hamas."
"It is not irreversible, but it is definitely a very negative step, which is short-term thinking and triumphs over strategy for the longer term."
A Gazan uses a catapult to throw stones at Israeli forces during a protest at the border on 24 September 2018
Nadia Hijab, president of the Palestinian think tank Al-Shabaka, said that the struggle prevented a united front against Israeli policy.
"The Palestinians fear that this new step will strengthen divisions and lead to a complete breakdown between Gaza and the West Bank, something that Israel has dared to do," she said.
Both sides played politics with the lives of people instead of taking on the 50-year occupation of Israel, "she said.
At least 241 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli fire in Gaza since mass protests along the border began in March 2018. Two Israeli soldiers have been killed.
The protests had come to rest in recent months after Hamas and Israel had signed an agreement that allowed Qatari aid to enter the territory.
This week it was reported that Israel had blocked a third tranche of Qatari funding, which could lead to increased tensions.
"If the Israelis are blocking the money, then I think it's almost a certainty that your Hamas will see the tension on the border increase," Lovatt said.
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