COMMENTS: Hamas Advances

Palestine is divided. The West Bank remains ruled by Fatah under President Mahmoud Abbas. The Gaza Strip is now controled by Hamas, despite Abbas' dissolution of its government and declaration of a state of emergency. CBS and NBC both led with Hamas' victory in Gaza, making it the Story of the Day. ABC chose to lead with computer problems on the International Space Station. It was a rare day with minimal attention paid to Iraq: no coverage by reporters and a mention only in passing of Shiite Moslem protests against the bombing of the shrine in Samarra.

"The green flag of Hamas, the flag of Islamic radicals, flew over every major government building in Gaza," announced NBC's Tom Aspell. "The liberation of Gaza," was how CBS' Richard Roth characterized Hamas street celebrations, "the arrival of Islamic rule." The United States had paid for the Palestinian security headquarters on the Gaza Strip that had been manned by Fatah fighters. "Now it belongs to Hamas," ABC's Wilf Dinnick declared. "In less than 48 hours Gaza imploded. Palestinian security was helpless to stop it." From the White House, CBS' Bill Plante pointed out that Hamas' triumph "has badly undercut the US position in the Middle East." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice responded by "asking Egypt and Jordan to continue supporting Abbas. What else? Not much."

CBS anchor Katie Couric recalled that Hamas' victory in last year's Palestinian parliamentary elections was "shocking"--although it was not clear whether she meant surprising or offensive. She noted that now Hamas "has the support of Iran and Syria." ABC's Dean Reynolds (subscription required) saw Hamas' advances as part of a broader pattern including the Taliban in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon: "If Islamists are able to establish a heavily armed state of their own in Gaza it will be another sign to their adherents that radical Islam is on the march." As for the Strip's 1.5m population, NBC's Aspell saw them "caught in the middle--mired in poverty and now abandoned by aid groups because it is too dangerous to be there."


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