KHAN YOUNIS, GAZA STRIP — The remains of an Israeli military hilltop outpost overlooking Gaza’s second-largest city have been cordoned off by razor wire and fortified with sandbags. The custodians of land that was part of the Israeli Gush Katif settlement block until disengagement last year are not Palestinian police but armed squatters from the Abu Reesh Brigades, a militia affiliated with President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party. And the militia’s frayed blue and magenta banner fluttering quietly in the breeze is their deed of ownership. ‘We just took this place,’ says Abu Harwun, a militia commander who uses a pseudonym. ‘Until now there is no authority in Gaza.’ Amid a yawning vacuum of power despite Hamas’s victory over Fatah in January’s election, Gaza’s mosaic of militias are expanding a network of improvised bases on empty land – much of it in the abandoned Jewish settlement – in the name of the Palestinian uprising against Israel. But as Mr. Abbas and the new Hamas-led Palestinian cabinet jockey for control of a government gripped by financial insolvency, the encampments are seen as yet another troubling sign that Gaza may be headed for a civil war. Highlighting the […]

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