|Fatah security forces have been accused of nepotism and being infiltrated [EPA]|
It is now six weeks since Hamas security forces overran their Fatah counterparts to seize control of the Gaza Strip, but the fallout from that defeat looks as if it may be only beginning for Mahmoud Abbas and his administration.
On Friday, the Palestinian president received a 200-page report on the findings of an internal inquiry that one senior aide says is heavily critical of the Fatah forces in Gaza and their leaders.
Abbas has already dismissed several security chiefs following the Hamas takeover on June 15, including Rashid Abu Shbak, his head of internal security, and the report comes a day after the resignation of Mohammad Dahlan, his national security adviser.
Nabil Amr is a senior presidential aide who was on the nine-member panel that conducted exhaustive interviews with Fatah commanders following the establishment of the inquiry on June 23.
He told a news conference the faction's security forces in the Gaza Strip were riven by nepotism, infiltrated by hostile agents and contained recruits motivated by simply making a living rather than political conviction.
"We insist on drawing lessons from this experience and making it a true first step toward real reform," he said.
'No field command'
"The refusal by the US, EU et al to deal with Hamas reflects their disrespect for the wishes of the Palestinian people"
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The report has not been made public, but Amr said it criticised a lack of co-ordination among security forces during the fighting that left more than 100 dead and saw Fatah men abandoning key posts, including Abbas's own Gaza compound.
"There was no field command. That was terrible," Amr said. "An officer cannot be left to work alone on the ground."
A wholesale purge of the Fatah forces is now expected with a senior member of the inquiry committee indicating 60 officers up to the rank of brigadier could shortly be facing court martials.
Amr said that others had already been demoted.
However, one of those who is not to be internally disciplined is Dahlan.
Illness has been given as the official reason for his resignation, the same illness that meant he was not in Gaza during the fighting in June as he was seeking medical treatment. But many in the Palestinian territories believe there is more to it than that.
In his role, Dahlan was effectively in charge of security in Gaza and his role and influence greatly irked Hamas.
His role was one of the main reasons why Fatah and Hamas failed on several occasions to reach a consensus on the position of interior minister, who would nominally be in charge of security matters during negotiations to form a Palestinian unity government.
In May, Hani al-Qawasmi resigned from the post saying his was a position "without authority".
Pressure has been mounting on Abbas to further expose Dahlan's role and hold him accountable.
In his role, Dahlan commanded a force of about 20,000, often accused of human rights abuses while Hamas says he is funded by the US.
Indeed, there have been reports that possible US-sponsors are dissatisfied in his failure to act as a bulwark to Hamas.
|Illness was the official reason |
given for Dahlan's resignation [AFP]
Dahlan is believed to be on of the richest people in the Palestinian territories with much of his wealth accrued through Palestinian Authority monopolies such as oil and cement.
He is now in Yugoslavia also receiving medical treatment and Hamas have welcomed his resignation and called it the "beginning of the purification of Fatah's ranks".
Hamas is believed to have penetrated agents into the security forces. Amr said a "state of infiltration" of those forces had come about because of "random recruitment", among other problems.
He also said the report found that security officials failed to obey instructions from Abbas that they take measures to forestall a possible "coup" by Hamas before fighting broke out.
Senior Fatah officials have appeared anxious to shield Abbas himself for any blame for the debacle in Gaza.
But Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior Hamas official, said the report showed precisely that "President Abbas should admit his responsibility before the Palestinian people because he is the commander-in-chief of the security services, which the report shows were responsible for the attack on Hamas and the people".
He said the report also bore out Hamas's accusations that the Fatah-run security forces have been riddled with corruption.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies