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Dia Khalil

Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders seek to heal rifts

Islamic Jihad and Hamas are working on joint field commands [AFP]

Date of publication: 10 April, 2015

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Analysis: Joint-rallies and seminars suggest leaderships of both Palestinian groups are working to patch up their fractured relationship, says Dia Khalil.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad appear to be on the road to rapprochement, months after the Gaza Islamist groups broke ties after a frenzy of violence. 

The two groups have been at loggerheads for some time, but the disputes boiled over last year when Hamas sacked an imam seen as close to Islamic Jihad, which sparked fights between supporters of the two movements. The killing of an Islamic Jihad supporter by a Hamas police officer last year led to the two groups break ties.

However, political and military leaders have recently held joint seminars and meetings on "unity, rapprochement, and the joint Islamic plan" - a sign that the two movements are trying to put their differences behind them.

There have also been joint rallies held in the Strip.

Islamic Jihad played a pivotal role in easing tensions between Hamas and Fatah, but some believe the recent rapprochement may end this role.

Ismail Radwan, a leading member of Hamas, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that Islamic Jihad was important to Hamas in its resistance to Israel.

Ahmed al-Modallal, of Islamic Jihad, said that relations between his movement and Hamas have never been better. Joint field committees have been established, in case of an attack on the besieged territory. 

Hisham Saqallah, a journalist with close ties with Fatah, noted that Islamic Jihad's stance towards his party has changed "significantly" over the past few days, and believes the movement is now siding with Hamas.

Now Islamic Jihad leaders are openly accusing the Palestinian Authority and Fatah of hindering national reconciliation.

Speaking at a joint rally with Hamas, Islamic Jihad spokesperson Daoud Shehab angrily rejected a thinly veiled request, by Mahmoud Abbas, for joint Arab military action against Hamas in Gaza.

Popular divide
     Unity between Hamas and the Islamic Jihad is only natural as they both share similar ideological viewpoints.

Ibrahim al-Madhoun, head of the future research centre, said that the recent displays of unity between Hamas and the Islamic Jihad is only natural as they both share similar ideological viewpoints.

Relations have also warmed due to a need for joint action on military and security concerns, particularly after recent events in the region.

But he believes that the rapprochement is still confined to the leadership and not the popular bases.

Yet this has also allowed Islamic Jihad to work more freely in Gaza, which is not the case for the movement in the West Bank.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad feel under threat after the Saudi-led assault on the Houthi movement in Yemen.

Due to this, the two movements' armed wings - Qassam and al-Quds brigades – are establishing closer ties.

Even politically the two are allied, although differences still exist.

And no matter how closely aligned the two become, Madhoun says that they will always be separate entities. Their histories would also prevent a merger.

Instead the leaderships will seek to preserve their identities, but work on establishing a close, working partnership. This could bring unity and stability to Gaza and establish a united front against outside threats.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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