After failing to offer their people any hope for the future, Fatah and Hamas are now telling Palestinians that they should expect more violence and bloodshed during in 2016.
In separate messages to the Palestinians on New Year's Eve, the two rival Palestinian parties pledged to pursue, and even step up, "resistance" attacks against Israel. Needless to say, the messages did not make any reference to peace, coexistence or tolerance.
Instead of wishing Palestinians a happy and prosperous New Year, both Fatah and Hamas are asking their people in the Gaza Strip and West Bank to prepare for increased violence and "resistance" attacks against Israel. The two parties have nothing to offer the Palestinians besides more bloodshed and despair.
Hamas, which has been in power in the Gaza Strip for almost 10 years, is even reported to be preparing for a new wave of suicide bombings against Israelis. The last time Hamas launched suicide attacks in Israel was during the second intifada, 2000-2005, which wrought havoc and destruction to Palestinians.
Various reports have suggested that Hamas was now considering activating its West Bank "sleeper cells," in preparation for resuming suicide bombings against Israelis. Hamas, according to the reports, is also planning to target Israeli security and political figures.
Hussam Badran, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, painted a grim picture of what awaits Palestinians during 2016. In a message to Palestinians, Badran announced that the current wave of terrorism, which he referred to as the "Al-Quds Intifada," would escalate during the coming year. He also hinted that Hamas was indeed considering resuming suicide attacks against Israelis: "The year 2016 will witness a development and escalation of the intifada and all forms of resistance operations."
His message, like those of many Hamas officials, did not contain any reference to the harsh living conditions of Palestinians under the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. When Badran and other Hamas officials talk about waging "all forms of resistance" against Israel, they are actually referring to plans to launch suicide bombings and other terror attacks against Israelis.
The Hamas New Year's messages do not offer Palestinians in the Gaza Strip any hope that their leaders are working towards ending their misery and state of despair. There is no promise to help solve the problem of unemployment or poverty in the Gaza Strip. Nor is there any promise to help solve the crisis with Egypt, one which has resulted in the closure of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt for most of 2015.
As if that were not enough, Hamas last week banned Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from celebrating New Year's Eve. Hamas security officers warned owners of restaurants and hotels against holding New Year's Eve parties, saying that this practice is "alien to our traditions and values and in violation of Islamic teachings." Hamas also justified the ban by arguing that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip must show solidarity with their brothers in the West Bank, who have been waging a campaign of stabbing and vehicular attacks against Israelis since early October.
By banning New Year's Eve celebrations, Hamas is following the example of other Islamist terror groups such as the Islamic State, which have denounced such parties as "un-Islamic." These groups consider New Year's Eve celebrations as being part of the same Western culture they are seeking to replace with extremist Islam and Sharia law.
Hamas cannot tolerate scenes of Palestinians rejoicing and celebrating the arrival of a new year. It does not want to see young Palestinians enjoying their time in restaurants, cafes and hotels. Instead, Hamas wants young Palestinians to join its forces and prepare for jihad against Israel. Hamas prefers to see young Palestinians dressed up in military fatigues and carrying weapons. It wants the young men, instead of celebrating and rejoicing, to participate in digging more tunnels under Gaza's borders with Israel and Egypt.
Armed Hamas militiamen on parade with a mock rocket in Gaza. (Image source: i24 News video screenshot)
Similarly, President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank, which this week celebrated the 51st anniversary of its first armed attack against Israel, is hoping that 2016 will witness more violence. Several Fatah officials and groups marked the anniversary by vowing to step up "resistance" against Israelis and urging Palestinians to join the "struggle" against Israel.
Fatah's armed wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, used the occasion to issue yet another threat to launch terror attacks against Israelis. "We remain committed to the option of an armed struggle," the group rote in a leaflet distributed in the West Bank. "We will continue in the path of the martyrs until the liberation of all of Palestine."
President Mahmoud Abbas, who is also head of Fatah, also had nothing to offer his people on New Year's Eve, other than more messages of hate and defiance towards Israel. In a message to his people, Abbas once again justified the current wave of violence by saying it was the "result of the continuation of occupation and settlements, and the desecration of our holy sites." He added: "Our people won't capitulate, surrender or accept humiliation."
As Abbas was addressing his people, masked Palestinians in Bethlehem attacked several restaurants and halls where New Year's Eve parties were supposed to take place. Eyewitnesses said that the masked men opened fire at the restaurants, halls and vehicles, to prevent Palestinians from celebrating. The assailants, eyewitnesses reported, were affiliated with Abbas's Fatah faction, not Hamas.
The leaders of Fatah and Hamas have once again shown they have nothing to offer the Palestinians other than violence, destruction and death. These leaders want their people to remain in a combatant mood in order to pursue the fight against Israel. As such, the year 2016 does not look very promising for Palestinians under the current leadership of Fatah and Hamas.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.