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Friday, July 6, 2007

Fatah on shaky ground

RAMALLAH, WEST BANK — Routed in the Gaza Strip, the Fatah party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is fractured and adrift at a moment when it is viewed by the outside world as the best hope for blunting the militant Hamas movement in the West Bank.

Once dominant in Palestinian affairs, the organization long led by the late Yasser Arafat is beset by a weak and aging leadership, internal schisms and a widespread reputation among Palestinians as corrupt, ineffectual and out of touch. Those troubles have some Palestinians wondering whether Fatah is more likely to lose the West Bank than to recapture the Gaza Strip from Hamas.

The crisis facing Fatah has deepened since Hamas crushed its forces in Gaza last month, leaving Fatah's authority limited to the West Bank. The United States, Israel and European allies have promised to bolster Abbas, a relative moderate, and his party as a way to isolate Hamas.

Fatah ruled unchallenged under Arafat, but was sent reeling after his death when it lost to Hamas in parliamentary elections in January 2006. Fatah's calamitous military defeat in Gaza has heightened worries among members. --source--

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