Abu Naim assassination attempt: what next?

by Julie Webb-Pullman

Tawfiq Abu Naim at a prisoner event in Gaza City (Photo: Julie Webb-Pullman)

Tawfiq Abu Naim at a prisoner event in Gaza City (Photo: Julie Webb-Pullman)

The first question to identify the perpetrator in any criminal investigation is inevitably: who benefits?

In the case of yesterday’s cowardly assassination attempt in Nuseirat on Major General Tawfiq Abu Naim, the General Commander of Internal Security Forces in Gaza, it could have several answers.

The most obvious are the Israeli occupation authorities, who were quick off the mark to “blast” the recent Palestinian reconciliation deal, and local Salafist groups who international media have been quick to point the finger at – which in itself should raise suspicions about the media’s motives. The connections between Salafist groups and Islamic State, and Islamic State and Israel are all too close for comfort….. ultimately leading back to the same perpetrator.

Another possibility is disgruntled Fatah members with no genuine commitment to the reconciliation agreement. It is an open secret that conditions in Gaza and the West Bank have not improved – the Palestinian Authority Security Services detentions and arrests of members of other factions in the West Bank has not even slowed, let alone ceased since the signing of the agreement. Gaza still suffers with 4 hours of electricity a day, employment insecurity, and perilous living conditions following the World Food Programme decision to stop all food aid to Gaza from the beginning of October.

West Bankers are also reportedly unhappy at the agreement’s concentration on Gaza’s problems while largely ignoring theirs.

It is no secret that Hamas has complied with every aspect of its commitments under the deal, and more. Similarly, some in Fatah are also doing their best to make the reconciliation work.

But others are clearly dragging their heels.

Let us hope that that is all they are doing.

While targeted assassinations of Palestinian political leaders are an only too-familiar weapon in the Israeli arsenal, so too are the not-infrequent results: an all-out military offensive against Gaza.

Ahmad Al Jabari, the operational commander of Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, was killed in an Israeli strike on a car in Gaza City on 14 November 2012, precipitating eight days of carnage in Gaza in which, according to OCHA, 174 Palestinians were killed, 101 of whom were civilians, including 33 children and 13 women. Hundreds of persons were injured.

The sabotaging of Palestinian reconciliation attempts seems to be following the same pattern.

The last agreement signed in May 2014 was thwarted after cynical political manipulation by the Israeli occupation authorities of a kidnapping incident in the West Bank, to justify over 50 days of brutal civilian massacres in Gaza. Several thousand more Palestinians lost lives, limbs and loved ones to that exercise in Israeli attempted expansionism.

The ceasefire was not the end of it. Almost daily breaches by the Israeli occupation have been a hallmark since 2014.

But Hamas and the resistance have refused to be drawn.

The assassination of Hamas military leader Mazen Fuqaha outside his home in March this year, the most provocative to date, was met with admirable restraint from the Palestinian resistance, demonstrating their strong desire to preserve the peace – and moral high ground.

Yesterday’s attack – outside a mosque on the holy day – further ups the ante, combining both the attempted assassination of another highly and widely respected Hamas leader, another tireless fighter for Palestinian and prisoners’ rights, AND the sabotage of reconciliation efforts.

Is this the second salvo this year in a furtive war on Palestinian unity, on Palestinian self-determination, and on Palestinian hopes for a peaceful and productive future?

As the Palestinian Security Services continue their investigations to identify those responsible – and they will – Palestinians must stand strong and continue with the reconciliation effort, because if this latest attack teaches us even just one thing, it is that Palestinian unity is perceived as a massive threat to the grossly unjust and illegitimate status quo.

Whatever the reservations, and however slow the apparent progress, that alone is reason enough to persevere with reconciliation – it is the least that is owed to the honourable men whose blood has been shed this year.