|A Hamas militant holds up a Hamas flag on a watch tower of the Preventive Security headquarters in Gaza City. Hamas captured the compound from Fatah forces.|
For a week now, Palestinians have had to deal with a new political reality. Their territories are now split between control by Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. About one and one-half million people live in Gaza; more than two million live in the West Bank.
Hamas forces took control of Gaza last week in the worst conflict ever between Palestinians. In just a few days the Islamic militants of Hamas defeated the security forces of Fatah.
Fatah is the party of Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. Hamas is supported by Iran and Syria. It was created with an aim of destroying Israel and has killed hundreds of Israelis.
So where does all this leave efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks? The goal is to create an independent Palestine from the territories next to Israel. President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet Monday in Egypt to discuss the situation. They last met in April.
Mister Olmert says he hopes that serious negotiations about a Palestinian state will be able to start soon.
|Mahmoud Abbas leads Fatah|
President Abbas has moved quickly to dismiss a Hamas-led unity government and establish an emergency government. The new cabinet, sworn in Sunday, is made up of independents and close allies of Fatah. The prime minister is Salam Fayyad, an international economist.
Mister Abbas has received support for his new government from the Arab League as well as the European Union and the United States. President Bush called the Palestinian president "a reasonable voice amongst the extremists" in that area of the world.
The United States and the European Union announced this week that they will restart financial aid to the Palestinian Authority. The aid was suspended for more than a year because the Hamas-led government refused to recognize Israel's right to exist.
Western governments are also offering more money for United Nations humanitarian efforts in Gaza. But some people fear a humanitarian crisis. There are also concerns that a complete boycott of Hamas could turn Gaza into a base for international terrorism.
Israel, the United States and the European Union have declared Hamas a terrorist organization. Yet dissatisfaction with Fatah leaders and what was seen as abuse of power and corruption helped bring Hamas to power.
Hamas began its rise to popularity in the late nineteen eighties, during the first Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation. Hamas established social services for Palestinians. Following the Oslo peace agreements in the early nineties, it launched a campaign of suicide bombings against Israel.
Two years ago Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza. Then, early last year, Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections. The victory led to fighting between Hamas and Fatah. And that led to the unity government which took office three months ago.
And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.