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A calm which cannot last

The realists know the present situation cannot last, yet the world - be it the USA and its allies or the European Union - avert their gaze from the intolerable situation which continues to exist in the West Bank and Gaza. People can take so much, and if they have nothing to lose, why not take action, whatever the consequences, to put an end to harsh repression and "living" in a totally unacceptable situation. The Economist puts things into perspective.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, dismissed an elected government run by the Islamists of Hamas and decided to rule instead by decree, the Palestinian Authority (PA) that oversees the West Bank is being dangerously challenged from within. In Nablus, the first city where Mr Abbas chose to fill the security vacuum with his American-trained national-security battalions, turf wars have recently erupted between rival commanders, puncturing four years of calm. The walls of Jacob’s Well, a local church, a theatre and the UN office all bear the scars of recent shooting sprees. “It’s hell,” says a social worker in Balata, the city’s largest refugee camp, which suffered grievously during two previous intifadas (uprisings), in 1987-93 and 2000-05. Now people are beginning gloomily to wonder whether there will be a third intifada, this time aimed at the PA as much as at the Israelis occupying the West Bank.
For the moment Mr Abbas has the upper hand. Dispatched from Ramallah, the PA’s seat of government, his presidential guards have detained dozens of rogue security officers, some of them very senior, in Nablus and in Jenin, a smaller Palestinian city half an hour’s drive to the north, where the governor recently died of a heart attack after machinegun fire raked his house. In Jenin triumphant officers loyal to Mr Abbas patrol the streets with M-16 rifles captured from their rivals.


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