A bus exploded in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv just after noon local time today, injuring at least 21.Claims of responsibility weren’t immediate, and when it came, the news turned out to be worse than many had imagined.
Hamas’ mortal enemy, Fatah—the group Hamas violently overthrew in Gaza in 2007—has claimed responsibility for the attack.
And rather than speaking against the group he once so ardently abhorred, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the bombing by Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyr Brigade “an act of heroism.”
This could be a big deal. The al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, the militant wing of Fatah, once threatened to kill Khalid Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, in an us-or-them mentality that has dominated the groups’ relationship.
A bit of background: Hamas took control of Gaza in June 2007 by winning elections and successfully resisting a Fatah revolt. Since then the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority has been resigned to governing the West Bank—a larger and less militarized region to the north that borders on Jerusalem—under the direction of President and key negotiator Mahmoud Abbas.
Hamas’ and Fatah’s attempts at making up and playing nice have largely failed ever since, but AFP reports that on Monday the rival Palestinian factions finally agreed to end their infighting in a show of solidarity.
“From here, we announce with other (factional) leaders, that we are ending the division,” senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub told a crowd of about 1,000 in the West Bank’s political capital of Ramallah.
Top Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Ramahi told the crowd: “Whoever speaks about the division after today is a criminal.”
Haaretz reports that a cease-fire will not be announced on Wednesday because Israel refuses to include the lifting of the Gaza naval blockade as a term in the truce agreement, according to Palestinian sources in Cairo.
The last time Hamas and Fatah had a workable truce was during Operation Cast Lead—Israel’s three-week Gaza offensive beginning in December 2008—when they demanded that any peace initiatives include an end to the blockade and an opening of all of Gaza’s crossings, including the Rafah crossing with Egypt.
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