The rising clout of Al Qassam in Gaza dims prospects for mending the Hamas-Fatah rift. Reconciliation talks are slated to start Nov. 9.
Gaza City, Gaza
Abu Khaled has been a member of Hamas's military wing for 11 years and he looks the part. His thick beard, black clothes, and serious face bear witness to his rise through the ranks to become one of the leaders of the Ezzedine Al Qassam Brigades in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, near Israel's border.
But at this moment, as he softly sings along with popular Arabic pop singer Elissa in a deserted Gaza restaurant, it's hard to believe he fought in the fierce 2007 battle that expelled Fatah, Hamas's secular rival, from Gaza.
When asked about reconciliation with Fatah, however, he snaps back into the role of tough militant leader.
"There is no reconciliation," he says sharply. "How can I reconcile with someone who killed my brother?"
Most Gazans are not optimistic that Hamas – considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel – will end the divide with Fatah, which dominates the internationally backed Palestinian Authority (PA) in charge of the West Bank.
But they want such reconciliation, because it would not only improve their standard of living and pave the way for overdue elections, but also enable Palestinians to present a united front in negotiations with Israel on a future Palestinian state.