FORM JOINT COMMITTEE TO OVERSEE GAZA PULLOUT – Hamas urges PNA

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Parliament cleaners demonstratingat the launch of their strike ballot on June 15
Parliament cleaners demonstratingat the launch of their strike ballot on June 15

Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Civil Affairs Minister Muhammad Dahlan met with a Hamas leadership delegation comprising Isma’il Haniyah and Sa’id Siyam, in Gaza, at dawn Monday.

Dahlan briefed the delegation on the understandings reached with the Israeli side on the withdrawal from Gaza and northern Western Bank.

Informed sources said that the Hamas delegation renewed the movement’s demand for the formation of a joint committee to oversee the withdrawal.

Dahlan, for his part, stressed that the Palestinian security forces will be the party to oversee security and maintain order during and after the withdrawal.

Sa’id Siyam said that Hamas’s proposal for participation through a higher national body does not mean to replace the PNA, but rather aims at taking part in tackling the outcome and consequences of this withdrawal.

He stressed that the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and northern West Bank is a national achievement in which the various national and Islamic forces took part.

Siyam told reporters: ‘He gave a briefing on the technical committees which tackle this file (withdrawal).

‘There was also talk about the participation of Palestinian Factions through a higher national body or committee that does not replace the authority or run the strip, but for purposes of assurances and to take part in tackling the consequences and outcome of this Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

‘I believe the withdrawal, or the departure of the Israeli occupation, is a national issue and an achievement for the Palestinian resistance.

‘It is the result of the role played by all the Palestinian people and all their factions, not only the Hamas Movement, considering that all the Palestinian people and all the forces contributed in this achievement through the sacrifices they offered.

‘Therefore, we in the Hamas Movement propose that this national body include all the forces and institutions of the civil society to help, contribute, and make sure that the withdrawal is a national achievement and festivity and not a national catastrophe.’

In statements to reporters following his meeting with the Hamas delegation, Dahlan said that the anticipated Israeli withdrawal from the governorates of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was a national issue and not an issue that concerned only one faction.

He explained that the Palestinian security forces would be in charge of security and order during and after the withdrawal.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reported on Monday that despite the reported coordination between Israel and the Palestinians over the disengagement, ‘the IDF (Israel “Defence” Forces) is continuing to plan to reoccupy swaths of the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip’ to ensure an attack-free evacuation.

Senior Israeli army officers told The Jerusalem Post that the coordination was ‘forced’ on them from above, meaning the ‘defence’ establishment and government.

‘There are some benefits to be derived from coordinating the pullout with the Palestinians,’ said one officer involved. ‘But the bottom line is we are sticking to the original plan.’

The IDF has long planned to ensure there is no chance Palestinian militants could strike at Jewish settlements during the evacuation.

The paper reported that it has cobbled together two ad hoc divisions in addition to the standing Gaza Strip division to take over swaths of areas around the settlements as a buffer against mortar or gunfire attacks.

This is despite the coordination being worked out between the IDF and Palestinian security officers in the Gaza Strip.

Military sources said the coordination revolves around setting up proper liaison links and working out measures so that armed Palestinian forces are kept out of the conflict should the IDF decide to enter the Palestinian-controlled areas.

It was also being driven home to them the overwhelming force the IDF is devoting to the endeavour.

‘We want to make sure they won’t get in the way of any bits of flying metal,’ said one of the officers, referring to Palestinian security forces.

The army was also dismissive of the Palestinian efforts to set up its new 5,000-man force to prevent looting of the Jewish settlements.

‘I have not seen lots of armies able to recruit and train 5,000 men in 40 days,’ one senior officer said. ‘I’m not optimistic, and that is an understatement.’

One senior officer asked to rate the ability of the Palestinian forces to maintain order on their side during the disengagement put it at ‘50 out of a scale of 200.’

The Israeli army has not given any indication if it will stage any pre-emptive occupation of Palestinian areas to quash chances of attacks.

Senior officers said this scenario also depended on the behaviour of the Palestinians in the period leading up to the 17 August date for the beginning of the evacuation.

Senior officers have said that if any deadly strikes occur during the evacuation it would not hesitate to use its full force to extinguish it.

The massive IDF force was also prepared for a scenario where it would completely reoccupy the Gaza Strip in an operation similar to 2002 Defensive Shield when the IDF reoccupied all Palestinian-controlled areas in the West Bank.

‘This is something we may end up doing in the end. We wouldn’t like to have to fight our way out. We’d rather do it with coordination,’ said a senior officer.

The IDF expects the initial evacuation, set to begin on Wednesday, 17 August with the northern Gaza Strip settlements of Nisanit, Aley Sinai and Dugit to be completed by Friday before Shabbat.

According to Israeli military sources, it would take another eight days to pack up the settlers’ belongings and then bulldozers just three days to demolish the settlements.

The entire evacuation is planned for two weeks, with options to extend it depending on the resistance and the Palestinian actions.