The Israeli government is planning to review its policy and procedures regarding intervention in the ongoing bloodshed between Hamas and Fatah factions in the Gaza Strip.
About 190 Fatah members escaped to Israel over the last weekend following a crackdown by Hamas, with 87 allowed to continue to Jericho after being questioned by the IDF. Fourteen were detained for further questions and 23 remained in hospital in Israel. About 70 returned to Gaza.
The renewed fighting followed a car bomb that killed six, including five Hamas members, in Gaza City last Thursday. Hamas forces accused Fatah agents of planting the bomb and attacked the compound of the Hilles clan, one of the few remaining Fatah strongholds in the Strip, killing nine and wounding 80.
Despite the fact that this was not the first time that Fatah members had escaped to Israel, senior Israeli officials said that the IDF was ill-prepared to deal with the influx. It was unclear what the army planned to do with them and upon entering Israel they were strip-searched in clear view of TV cameras.
"While Hamas and Fatah are slaughtering each other," a senior government source told the JC, "we can't allow ourselves to get caught in the crossfire.We have to be able to decide quickly what to do with them according to Israeli interests, and not take orders from the Palestinians".
Israel is also hoping that new procedures will help counter accusations such as those made in a Physicians for Human Rights report that the Shin Bet security service is demanding Palestinians seeking medical treatment spy for Israel in exchange. The Prime Minister's Office denied the charges saying that Palestinians were only questioned to ascertain whether they posed a security risk by coming for treatment in Israeli hospitals.
"Of course we try and get information from the Palestinian patients," the government source told the JC, "what intelligence agency wouldn't try? But it's not a condition for receiving treatment. There could have been misunderstandings and that is another reason for improving the whole process."