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March 27, 2003

Hamas militants challenge Palestinian Authority

Article from Reuters reproduced at GreenScreen News (hence, the URL for entire day) reveals further the growing conflict between PLO and Terror group(s)

JABALYA, Gaza Strip, March 27 (Reuters) - Murals of the Palestinian uprising vie for attention on the shrapnel-scarred walls of refugee camps. Yasser Arafat looms large, but images of a machinegun mounted on a mosque turn more heads.

The murals trumpet the Islamic militant group Hamas, which is flourishing while Arafat's Palestinian Authority is withering in much of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank after two-and-a-half years of conflict with Israel.

A recent poll by independent Palestinian university researchers found Hamas and its smaller radical ally Islamic Jihad are favoured by 34 percent of Palestinians compared to 30 percent for Fatah, the Palestinian president's secular national movement.

Islamists had never topped 20 percent in surveys before the conflict but have risen over the shambles of a Fatah-led Palestinian Authority weakened by Israeli army incursions and discredited by what many Palestinians see as corruption and remoteness.

"Hamas, by stressing its rectitude, fights against Israeli occupation after the failure of Arafat's statehood negotiations with Israel, and its charitable work for the soaring number of Palestinian poor, has gained popularity at the Authority's expense," said Ziad Abu Amr, a Fatah legislator and analyst.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants, sworn to destroying Israel in contrast with Arafat who publicly backs a negotiated "two-state solution," have led a campaign of suicide bombings and guerrilla-style ambushes in pursuit of independence.[more]