March 19, 2024 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1755

Tensions Between Hamas And Palestinian Authority, And Between Hamas And Gaza Elements That Are Challenging It

March 19, 2024 | By S. Schneidmann*
Palestinians | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1755


The Hamas-Fatah tension against the backdrop of the Israel-Gaza war intensified recently following Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas's appointment of Muhammad Mustafa as the new Palestinian prime minister. Another factor in the escalation of this tension was efforts by the PA, and especially by its General Intelligence Service (GIS), headed by Majed Faraj, to form a local governing authority in Gaza as an alternative to Hamas, in cooperation with Israel and with the help of armed tribal elements in the Gaza Strip.[1]

On March 14, 2024, Mahmoud Abbas issued a presidential decree appointing his associate Muhammad Mustafa as the next PA prime minister, replacing Muhammad Shtayyeh.[2] According to reports, the new government will comprise "experts" or "technocrats" unaffiliated with any political element, even though Abbas himself chairs the PA's ruling party, Fatah. The supposedly apolitical character of the planned government is meant to make it easier for the PA to govern the Gaza Strip after the war.

Although many reports state that the move to appoint a new government was coordinated with Hamas,[3] Hamas came out against it very strongly. The day after Mustafa's appointment as prime minister, Hamas issued a joint statement with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Palestinian National Initiative Movement accusing Abbas of making unilateral decisions and calling Mustafa's appointment a symbolic and hollow measure that only deepens intra-Palestinian schisms.

In response, Fatah published a statement attacking Hamas in a fashion unprecedented since Hamas's October 7, 2023 invasion and massacres in southern Israel. The statement quoted an accusation published by the Palestinian Authority's news agency Wafa asserting that Hamas had decided on its own to undertake "the adventure of October 7, 2023, which led to a nakba more horrible and bitter than the one of 1948." The statement added that President Abbas's legitimate decisions serve national interests, while Hamas is advancing a foreign agenda. It also asked: "Does Hamas want us to appoint a prime minister from Iran or for Tehran to appoint one for us?" This condemnation of Hamas sparked an internal dispute within Fatah, some of whose members had supported Hamas up until that point.[4] Some stated that Fatah chairman Abbas had published the statement without consulting Fatah institutions, and that it had been drafted by "security elements."[5]

Similar statements were made in a March 17, 2024 editorial article in the PA mouthpiece Al-Hayat Al-Jadida.

These severe tensions between Hamas and the PA concerning the appointment of a new prime minister also come against the backdrop of reports that there have been contacts between armed tribal elements in the Gaza Strip and Israel and the Palestinian Authority, particularly the Palestinian General Intelligence Service under the command of Majed Faraj, about the establishment of a civil administration or local regime in the Strip to replace the Hamas administration. According to reports, the emphasis in these interactions is establishing a local Palestinian force that can distribute humanitarian aid to the local population while preventing Hamas from intervening. This move undermines Hamas's rule, and Hamas openly threatens to strike any traitors or collaborators with "an iron fist."

Palestinian cartoonist Alaa' Al-Luqta: "The occupation's attempts to replace the management in the Gaza Strip." The cartoon depicts Palestinian General Intelligence Service Director Majed Faraj being airdropped onto the ruins of the Gaza Strip alongside boxes of humanitarian aid. Source:, March 13, 2024.

This report will provide an overview of the Hamas-PA tensions against the backdrop of Muhammad Mustafa's recent appointment as the Palestinian prime minister, and of the tensions between Hamas and tribal elements in the Gaza Strip in light of reports that the latter are being used by Israel and the PA to undermine Hamas there.

Hamas-PA Tensions Due To Muhammad Mustafa's Appointment As Palestinian Prime Minister

As noted above, PA President Abbas's appointment of Muhammad Mustafa as prime minister has led to an exchange of harsh statements between Hamas and the PA. This indicates that contrary to a number of leaks in Arab and Palestinian media indicating that Abbas aims to establish a "technocratic" PA government, Mustafa's appointment was not coordinated with Hamas.

Hamas: Mustafa's Appointment Is Meaningless, Deepens The Schism, Reflects Abbas's One-Man Rule

On March 15, 2024, following Muhammad Mustafa's appointment, Hamas published on its Telegram channel a statement written jointly with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Palestinian National Initiative movement. The statement reads:

"In the name of Allah the Merciful and the Compassionate.

"Statement to the press:

"In light of the PA President's decree charging Dr. Muhammad Mustafa with forming a new government, the Palestinian national factions [headed by Hamas] stress the following:

"1. The top national priority at the moment is to confront the barbaric Zionist aggression and the war of genocide and starvation that the occupation is waging against our people...

"2. Unilateral decision-making and engaging in symbolic and hollow measures like forming a new government in the absence of a national consensus means strengthening [Abbas's] one-man rule and deepening the schism, [precisely] at a unique historical moment in which our people and our cause need consensus and unity more than ever, and need the establishment of a united national leadership that will prepare the ground for free and democratic elections with the participation of all components of the Palestinian people.

"3. These measures reflect the depth of the crisis [afflicting] the PA leadership, its disconnect from reality, and the wide gulf that exists between it and its people...

"4. Our nation has the right to wonder about the point of replacing one government [under Abbas] with another, or one prime minister with another from the same political and party environment...

"We call on our people and its vital forces to raise their voices and fight against this blow [that has been dealt] to the present and future of our [national] cause, to our people's interests, and to its national rights. We also call on all the national forces and factions – especially on our brethren in the Fatah movement... – to agree on [a different way] of managing this major historic period – a way that serves our national cause, meets our people's aspiration to restore its legitimate rights, and [leads to] the liberation of its land and holy places and the establishment of its independent and sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital.

"[Signed:] The Hamas Movement, the PIJ Movement, the PFLP Movement, and the Palestinian National Initiative Movement."[6]

Fatah: Hamas Has Caused A Nakba Worse Than 1948 And Has No Right To Dictate National Priorities

In response, the Palestinian Authority's Wafa news agency published the following statement on behalf of the Fatah movement:

"The Palestinian National Liberation Movement, Fatah, stressed that those who caused Israel to reoccupy the West Bank and brought about the nakba that the Palestinians are currently experiencing, especially in the Gaza Strip, have no right to dictate national priorities. [Fatah] added that it is the Hamas leadership that is truly disconnected from reality and from the Palestinian people, and to this day it fails to grasp the magnitude of the disaster that has befallen our oppressed people in the Gaza Strip and in the rest of the Palestinian territories.

"Fatah condemned Hamas's discourse regarding autocracy and division, and wondered: Did Hamas consult the Palestinian leadership or any national Palestinian element before taking the decision to carry out the adventure of October 7, 2023, which led to a nakba more horrible and bitter than the one of 1948? Is it consulting the Palestinian leadership in the negotiations it is currently holding with Israel, in which it is making one concession after the other just to obtain guarantees for [its] leaders' personal safety, and in which it is reaching new understandings with Netanyahu about perpetuating [its] divisive role in Gaza and in the Palestinian arena[?] [Another] question is, did Hamas consult anyone when it carried out its dirty coup against the legitimate Palestinian government [i.e. the PA] in 2007 and rejected all the initiatives to end the schism[?]

"Fatah emphasized that according to the [Palestinian] Basic Law, the brother President Mahmoud Abbas is entitled to take any measure that serves the interest of the Palestinian people, and noted that his appointment of Dr. Mustafa is squarely within [the realm of] his political and legal responsibility and that the priorities set out in [his] letter of appointment are the priorities of the Palestinian people. According to Fatah, this can be understood by any reasonable person who is not disconnected from his people and from the terrible, tragic reality in which they are living, [especially those] subjected to intense oppression in the Gaza Strip. [Fatah] underscored that the priorities of any Palestinian today are stopping the war immediately, preventing the emigration [of the Gazans], helping our disaster-struck people, rebuilding the Gaza Strip, ending the schism, and reuniting the Palestinian homeland – which are not Hamas's top priorities, as is evident from the statement it issued today [March 15, 2024].

"Noting that the incoming prime minister, Dr. Muhammad Mustafa, has been provided with the national priorities, not with the fake priorities that only bring catastrophes upon the Palestinian people without yielding a single achievement, Fatah wondered: Does Hamas want us to appoint a prime minister from Iran, or want Tehran to appoint [one] for us[?] Criticizing the conduct and behavior of Hamas in the face of the war of Genocide [being waged by Israel in Gaza], the [Fatah] movement stated that the life of luxury enjoyed by these leaders in seven-star hotels has apparently blinded them to the truth, and wondered why most of Hamas's leaders live abroad [in the first place] and why they fled with their families, leaving the Palestinian people to deal with the cruel genocide unprotected.

"Fatah called on the Hamas movement end its policy that is connected to an external [i.e. Iranian] agenda and to return to the national fold in order to stop the war, save our people and its cause from extermination, and help our people rebuild Gaza until [we achieve Israel's] full withdrawal from the soil of the State of Palestine and from its capital, Jerusalem."[7]

Similar statements were made in the March 17, 2024 editorial of the PA mouthpiece Al-Hayat Al-Jadida. It states:

"We refer [here] to the shamelessness of the statement issued by Hamas and its allies, who are so intoxicated by Iranian funding, and whose national perception has been so blinded [by this funding], that they have lost touch with reality. These [movements] – which manipulated the 'national consensus' for their own partisan and governmental ends [but] never found their way and acted arrogantly in the squares of populist speeches – have begun [acting] like the milkmaid who spilled the milk on her way [to the market] but continued deluding herself that she still had it and that her profit from it would guarantee her a life of plenty and wellbeing...[8]

"Here we must remind Hamas that, back in the day, it rose to power under the slogan of change and reform, but [that it has] changed nothing except for the values, modus operandi, and standards enshrined in our books of nationalism, which it replaced with the values of thuggery, with partisan behavior, and with the ethics of exclusion, while improving nothing except for the methods of destruction and devastation...

"Hamas, which embarked on an adventure on October 7 based on its exclusive Iranian decision, has brought disasters upon our people not only in Gaza but throughout the territory of the occupied state of Palestine..."[9]

Hamas, Against The Backdrop Of Its Tensions With Tribal Elements In Gaza: We Will Strike Traitors And Collaborators With An Iron Fist

As mentioned, the tensions between Hamas and the PA on the issue of Mustafa's prime ministerial appointment also come against the backdrop of reports of contacts between armed tribal elements in the Gaza Strip and Israel and the Palestinian Authority, particularly the Palestinian General Intelligence Service under the command of Majed Faraj, about establishing a civil administration or local regime that will replace the Hamas administration. According to reports, the emphasis in these interactions is establishing a local Palestinian force that can distribute humanitarian aid to the local population while preventing Hamas intervention.

Within this context, various statements were published by tribal elements in the Gaza Strip expressing allegiance to the PLO and the Palestinian Authority lead by Abbas, congratulating Mustafa on his appointment, and even calling to rise up against Hamas following the death of tribe members in clashes with Hamas's security forces during the distribution of food aid.[10] It should be noted that the authenticity of some of these statements has been called into question, and some of the statements were published by elements with ties to Fatah.

For example, the PA's Wafa news agency published two general statements by the "Gazan Tribes," in which they renew their vows of allegiance to the leadership, headed by Mahmoud Abbas. The first statement was published in late December 2023, as reports emerged regarding the intention to establish a clan-based civil administration, and the second was published in early March 2024, following reports that the talks were underway.[11] On March 16, Wafa published a similar statement by the "Palestinian Tribes" celebrating Mustafa's appointment as prime minister.[12] Separately, other tribal elements published more reserved statements, emphasizing that they could not replace any "political authority" and that there is an "official" authority that should be running the Gaza Strip, without naming it.[13] In addition, they noted that they would not cooperate with "the occupation."[14]

Hamas, meanwhile, was not indifferent to the notion of a clan-based civil administration, condemning it as early as January 6, 2024.[15] As the idea coalesced into practical steps, Hamas threatened, on March 10, to strike "with an iron fist" against anyone compromising the "interior front," emphasizing that the contacts between certain mukhtars and the Israeli occupation constitute "national treason."[16] Hamas sources expressed great confidence in the tribes' loyalty to the Hamas leadership and in the capabilities of its security apparatus in detecting communications between tribal elements and Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in order to thwart all subversive organizing.[17]

Arab media reported on March 14 that Hamas had already executed two tribal elders charged with treason and with collaborating with the enemy – the mukhtars of the Doghmush and Kafarna clans.[18] The report was vigorously denied by the Hamas government the same day. The Doghmush clan also published a statement denying that the mukhtar had been executed by Hamas, saying that he had been killed in an Israeli airstrike in November 2023. The statement emphasized that the clan has no contacts with any foreign elements and that any declaration of a blood feud with Hamas over the execution of the Mukhtar is false.[19]

In further response to the threat issued by Hamas, tribal elements released statements underlining their allegiance to Hamas rule. For example, the head of the Supreme Council for Tribal Matters in the Gaza Strip, Abu-Salman Al-Marni, told Hamas's Shehab news agency that there had indeed been attempts by Israel, regional, and international elements to demand that tribes act as an alternative to Hamas's rule in the Gaza Strip. He said that all tribes oppose this and reject the idea that they should replace the Hamas government, and that anyone who cooperates with the occupation is not a mukhtar and does not represent their families.[20] In another statement to the Turkish news agency Anadolu, Al-Marni underlined that the tribes support whoever is chosen by the people – i.e. Hamas, in the 2006 Palestinian Authority Legislative Council elections – and that the tribes have no intention of replacing Hamas rule.[21] In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Al-Marni said that the Hamas administration alone is responsible for securing and distributing humanitarian aid, and that "all" the tribes refuse to collaborate with Israel or take Hamas' place.[22]

Such statements were of course welcomed by Hamas, but some sources disputed them. For example, a Telegram channel called "The Tribes and Families Of the Southern Districts – Gaza Strip" posted on social media that the organization called The Supreme Council of the Tribes of Gaza or The Supreme Council for Tribal Matters in the Gaza Strip is subordinate to Hamas and is not a legitimate body that represents all the tribes.[23]

* S. Schneidmann is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.


[1] The Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily reported on contacts between the IDF's Coordinator of Government Activities uin the Territories unit and representatives of clans that are in conflict with Hamas, aimed at forming local authorities (, March 2, 2024). The online daily Rai Al-Youm reported that the GIS is in contact with clan representatives, in coordination with Israel (, March 13-14, 2024).   

[2], March 14, 2024.

[3] The Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily, for example, initially reported, citing sources in Ramallah and Gaza, that the move had been coordinated with Hamas "in principle" (, February 26, 2024). Later, a source in the PA clarified that the decision had been made as part of understandings with "Western and Arab countries involved in making arrangements for the day after [the war] in Gaza" (, March 16, 2024).

[5] According to the London-based anti-PA Quds Press news agency, the statement was written by the PA's security agencies., March 16, 2024. However, according to the Ultrapal news website, it was written by the Palestinian Presidential Officer., March 17, 2024.

[6], March 15, 2024.

[7], March 15, 2024.

[8]  The reference is to Aesop's fable "The Milkmaid and Her Pail."

[9]  Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 17, 2024.

[11], December 30, 2023 and March 4, 2024.

[12], March 16, 2024.

[13] For example, in the statement of anonymous tribal leaders to the daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi (, March 6, 2024). It should be noted that the phrases they used, such as "There will be no state in Gaza, and there will be no state without Gaza", are commonly used in statements by the Palestinian Authority. Another statement by "the assembly of Palestinian families and tribes" emphasized that the tribes cannot replace any "Palestinian administration" (, March 10, 2024).

[14] For example, a statement by the "Union of the Mukhtars of Palestine" to Hamas's Shehab News Agency emphasized that the attempt to reinstitute the "Village Associations" failed, and that the clans refuse to cooperate with the occupation (, March 9, 2024). The General Commissioner of "The Council of Tribal Affairs in the Southern Districts," Aqaf Al-Masri, said that the tribes support the struggle of "all the forces" of the Palestinian people, and that they are not a replacement for any "political element." He emphasized that they will not cooperate with the Israeli occupation (, March 13, 2024).

[15], January 6, 2024.

[16], March 10, 2024.

[17] See statements made to dailies Rai Al-Youm (, March 13, 2024), Al-Akhbar (, March 15, 2024), and Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (, March 15, 2024).

[18], March 14, 2024 – the tweet by Raja Al-Aan news agency, which cited an "exclusive source" has since been deleted.

[19], March 15, 2024.

[20], March 13, 2024.

[21], March 14, 2024.

[22], March 16, 2024.

[23], March 14, 2024.

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