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$50,000 payments help grieving Gazans end blood feuds
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A relative shows a check for $50,000 to Esam Subeh's family during a social reconciliation ceremony in Beit Lahiya City, Gaza Strip. He was killed during Hamas and Fatah fighting in Gaza Strip in 2007. — AP
By Fares Akram

AS the rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas move to reconcile, families of loved ones killed in Gaza's civil war a decade ago are also learning to get along.

With the backing of an exiled former Palestinian security chief, grieving families are agreeing to drop their 10-year-old blood feuds in exchange for $50,000 payments.

The idea is to help Gaza move beyond one of its darkest chapters — the week-long round of internecine fighting that ended with Hamas' takeover of the territory in 2007. More than 700 Palestinians were killed in the infighting between the Fatah and Hamas factions, which was characterized by pitched gun battles on Gaza's streets and scenes of people being thrown off the rooftops of high-rise buildings.

The project is also giving Mohammed Dahlan, the former Gaza intelligence chief, his most direct involvement in Palestinian affairs since he was forced into exile in 2010 by President Mahmoud Abbas.

In this conservative society, family feuds are perhaps the biggest threat to the social fabric. Organizers hope that working at the local level can help on the broader political level as well.

"By doing this, we end rancor among families," said Majed Abu Shamalla, a Fatah lawmaker loyal to Dahlan. "We end a cycle of blood and revenge and this can lead to a real political reconciliation. Without ending this, the political reconciliation between the Palestinian factions can't be achieved."

When Khalil Al-Anqah, a new recruit in the Hamas police force, was killed by a roadside bomb in 2007, Hamas blamed Fatah for the explosion and his family vowed to retaliate.

But recently, the family dropped its plan to avenge his death. They were among hundreds of people who attended a reconciliation ceremony held at a wedding hall in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya.

After a reading from the Qur'an and speeches by local officials, a representative from each family was called to the stage, shook hands with officials and received a check.

Ismail Al-Anqah, Khalil's brother, said agreeing to move on would have been difficult at the time of the explosion.

"The blood was still warm, but time relieves and reduces pain," he said, calling the compensation agreement bittersweet.

Hundreds of families have similar stories.

The project has given Dahlan a high-profile role in Gaza. As security chief, Dahlan was a feared and reviled figure in Gaza who was forced to flee to Abbas' West Bank base after the Hamas takeover. Three years later, he had a falling out with the Palestinian president and was forced to leave there as well.

Exiled to the United Arab Emirates, Dahlan has forged good relations with Egypt and the Gulf governments and is angling for a comeback in the Palestinian territories.

Abu Shamallah, the Dahlan loyalist, said a fund of $50 million financed by donations from Dahlan's wealthy UAE sponsors has been created for the compensations, enough for roughly 725 families who lost loved ones, as well as people badly wounded or disabled in the fighting.

When Dahlan's name was mentioned during speeches at the recent ceremony, the hall erupted in applause.

Dahlan's efforts are independent of the reconciliation process going on between Fatah and Hamas. Under Egyptian mediation, the rivals have announced a preliminary agreement but still need to work out key details, such as who will control Hamas' vast weapons arsenal. Abbas, the Palestinian president, detests Dahlan and has rejected any political comeback by his nemesis. — AP

3 hours ago
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