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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Unreported Troubles of Hamas

As fixated as the world media is on Israel and the Palestinian Arab territories, there has been a huge story developing over recent months that they have all but ignored:

Hamas is in trouble.

We have already broken the story of the internal Hamas memo to Khaled Meshal describing the problems from Hamas' perspective, an earlier letter from the leader of the Qassam brigades that detailed other problems, and also the story of Hamas' cash crisis.

In addition, there are indications that at least part of the increase of "work accidents" in recent months were really from Hamas infighting.

There has been an increase of attacks from other Gaza groups on Hamas as well, which Hamas tried to dismiss as being from "teenagers."

Today, there are two more stories in the Arabic press that highlight Hamas' troubles.

Egyptian authorities are saying that they have made great strides in shutting down Hamas' illegal cash flow from places like Iran. Egypt has broken cash smugger networks and confiscated a lot of money that Hamas relies on to stay in power. Some experts think that the reason for Egypt's crackdown is frustration on Hamas' refusal to re-conciliate with the PA.

More tellingly, the terrorist group PFLP has written an open letter to Hamas officials warning that their latest moves to stay afloat are making the citizens of Gaza increasingly angry, warning of a "revolt and explosion" if Hamas doesn't ease up. It listed ten recent moves by Hamas that are adding pressure on citizens of Gaza:

1.New taxes on small shops, like falafel stands
2. Converting cars to taxis and levying large taxes on the owners
3. 60% tax on cigarettes
4. Confiscating private apartments owned by people outside Gaza and giving them to Hamas members
5. Restricting the activities on Gaza NGOs
6. Owners of apartments who had built (with permission) on government-owned lands now being taxed thousands of dollars
7. New taxes on groceries
8. Preventing many citizens from traveling outside Gaza
9. Restrictions on Gaza institutions and organizations
10. Violent and insulting treatment of Gaza citizens

Hamas is beset by internal divisions and external pressures. Arab governments have been largely critical of Hamas and even though it is trying to gain legitimacy in the Arab world (and in some ways Hamas is better organized than the PA with its huge Western backing) it has been failing.

Yet all of these facts have been flying in under the radar of practically the entire Western media and analysts.