By Aluf Benn
20 May 2007
The United States is pressing Israel to help bolster security
forces in the Gaza Strip that are loyal to Palestinian
Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Major General Keith Dayton, the U.S. security coordinator,
recently discussed the function of the pro-Abbas Presidential
Guard and National Security forces with senior Israeli
The Americans believe that strengthening Abbas loyalists and
deploying them in friction points along the north of the strip
and Philadelphi route in Rafah will eventually improve the
Western officials who studied the battle near the Karni
crossing last Tuesday concluded, contrary to the IDF's
assessment, that Abbas' forces had performed well despite
their losses and had succeeded in warding off a larger Hamas
force. They found that Hamas had not won a decisive victory in
the battles in the Strip and urged taking steps to strengthen
the pro-Abbas forces.
A 470-strong Presidential Guard force, which had trained in
Egypt, returned to Gaza last Tuesday via the Rafah crossing.
Defense establishment sources said there was no need to
coordinate the force's entry with Israel as the men were
The defense establishment is undecided about helping to
bolster the pro-Abbas forces and enabling Abbas to pay their
wages. Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh is the main
advocate for helping to strengthen the Abbas loyalists.
"The idea is to change the balance, which so far has leaned in
Hamas' favor. Well-trained [pro-Abbas] forces could help tip
the balance," Sneh told The Washington Post.
"We don't give them operative orders, that's Abbas' business,"
Defense officials rejected the IDF's evaluation that Abbas and
his forces had lost the battle for control of the Gaza Strip
and there was no point in helping them. The officials said the
IDF was prejudiced against Fatah and its troops' capability,
and that their evaluations were not based on a thorough
examination of the battles.
However, there is also a controversy in the U.S. about the
situation in the PA. Senior White House officials say Abbas'
failure to handle the situation and his keeping away from Gaza
reflect his inadequacy.
The IDF believes that Hamas has a considerable advantage over
Fatah in the confrontation with Fatah in the Gaza Strip.
"Hamas men are trained, equipped and more resolved than their
Fatah counterparts, even if the latter outnumber them in
weapons," an IDF source said.
The source said that senior defense officers identified with
Fatah have taken their families out of the Gaza Strip for fear
Hamas would harm them.
The head of the research division of Military Intelligence,
Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, on Friday told the diplomatic
corps that the Hamas modus operandi in Gaza was identical to
that developed by Hezbollah in South Lebanon. "Hamas is taking
over Fatah and Abbas' properties and equipment that the
international community is bringing into Gaza," he said in an
intelligence briefing at the Dan Hotel.