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Gaza bombings boost Hamas' popularity in Fatah-run territory

| Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012, 8:06 p.m.

GAZA CITY — With rocks, slingshots and song, young Palestinians took on the Israeli military in scenes unusual in the West Bank these days.

That's because amid the worst hostilities between Israel and Hamas in four years, emotional respect for Hamas has been recently boosted among Palestinians — also in the West Bank.

“The result of this war is Hamas has definitely become more popular,” said Mkhaimar Abusada, a political science professor at Al-Azha University in Gaza. “I'm talking to some of my friends in the West Bank, and they are cheering, they are saluting Hamas and Islamic Jihad for striking Israel with long-range missiles.

“Like it or not, this is the fact now,” he added.

Since the Israeli bombardment began two weeks ago to stop Gaza militants from lobbing rockets across the border, there have been protests in the West Bank — mainly in Ramallah, Hebron and Nablus — against Israel and in solidarity with Gazans. Israel sent in the army a number of times last week and has arrested more than 200 people, according to Hamas.

Now the real question is what the impact of an increase in esteem for Hamas means for a lasting peace in the region and whether it will lead to a decline in support for Fatah. The Western-backed, Fatah-led Palestinian Authority that governs the West Bank is the only Palestinian group willing to recognize Israel's right to exist. Its main goal is a two-state solution, something Hamas has long rejected.

A September poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research based in Ramallah showed that almost half of all Palestinians in the West Bank were unsatisfied with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and 42 percent supported the dissolution of the authority.

The recent conflict led to symbolic displays of unity between the two factions over a common enemy.

Hamas started as an opposition movement before taking over Gaza in 2007 after a bloody civil war with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, whom it kicked out of Gaza.

Hamas and Fatah said last week they would end the “division” between them. But it remains unclear whether recent events will lead to reconciliation.

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