Friday, April 14, 2006

Here’s a surprise: Gaza degenerates into camps of warring thugs

Who knew that a kleptocracy governed by terrorists and gangsters and populated by people steeped is self-perpetuating victimhood would collapse when it was left to its own devices?

Ariel Sharon, that’s who.
Militant camps sprout in growing Gaza instability

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip -- Militant squatters loyal to rivals Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are turning open lots in the Gaza Strip into ad hoc military bases, a development that some fear will lead to open warfare between rival Palestinian factions.

Leaders at the camps say they are acting in the name of the Palestinian uprising against Israel, but the growing presence of what are essentially guerrilla training camps comes at a time of growing instability in Gaza.

"Everyone is showing their strength under the umbrella of the resistance," said Tawfik Abu Khoussa, a former spokesman of the Palestinian Interior Ministry. "If there is a little problem between the factions, maybe they will start a civil war."

Shaken by Israeli artillery barrages and choked economically by the closing of its main commercial passage to the outside world, Gaza has been engulfed by a yawning power vacuum after January's parliamentary elections in which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party was routed by Hamas.

The camps -- many of which have sprung up amid the rubble of the former Jewish settlements -- are marked by barbed wire, a tent and a banner of whatever militia has laid claim to the territory.

The camps are used for rifle practice and to recruit new members to the ranks of what Palestinians call "the resistance."

"From 16 years old, the children have to be a part of a faction," said Abu Harwun, a commander of a militia affiliated with Fatah known as the Abu Reesh brigades.

The camps "raise the hope" of teenagers who are recruited fresh out of high school so they can be prepared for the "military life," he said…

The camps are deserted during the day, but they awaken at night with activity. The sites are a launch pad for the rocket attacks into Israel that have spurred a weeklong barrage of retaliatory Israeli shelling, killing 17 Palestinians…

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