This article seems to confirm that Arafat has the Israelis on one side and Hamas and the other militants on the other ... and that he is getting badly squeezed between them.
By 9 October, the tension had calmed but the authority and its Islamist adversary were still not reconciled. The authority wants Hamas to "extradite" the killers to its custody, but Hamas has refused because "the law must be applied to the police and not just to citizens".
Hamas’s defiance of the authority will almost certainly continue. Two years into the intifada, the Islamic group is a dominant power in the occupied territories, and nowhere more than in the poverty-stricken, besieged towns and refugee camps of Gaza.
It owes its ascent to Mr Sharon’s emphasis on a military solution, Israel’s attacks on the Palestinian Authority and its subsequent collapse, the divisions within Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, public support for Hamas’s strategy of armed struggle within the West Bank and Gaza, plus suicide attacks in Israel. The result is less a party in opposition to the leadership than a movement bent on establishing an alternative to its crumbling order.
In August, the authority’s police forces gingerly tried to arrange a ceasefire in Gaza along the lines of the truce that has more or less held in Bethlehem.
It was ignored by Hamas, which unleashed mortar attacks against army bases and Jewish settlements and suicide bombs in Israel. Some of these operations were done singly, others in concert with militias belonging to Fatah, Islamic Jihad or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Also in August, the Palestinians made a sustained effort to agree a common policy for the intifada. Fatah wanted a clear acknowledgement that the goal of the national struggle was the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, and that resistance, armed and popular, should be confined to these areas. It also wanted a national unity government to be formed ahead of any new elections.
Hamas demurred on all three counts, but the critical divide was on goals. It agreed that the immediate aim was to end the occupation, but refused to relinquish national, religious and refugee claims to land that was part of the Palestine mandate but is now Israel.
Is it possible Hamas can be domesticated as a loyal Palestinian opposition rather than a mutinous one? Palestinians are convinced that it cannot be tamed by repression, or by ceasefires aimed at rescuing a regime in which Hamas has no stake, let alone by declarations from the battered ruins of Mr Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah. Any remedy, they say, must come from outside.
Other Palestinians say that Hamas will remain irrepressible until Israel is pressured to lift the blockades and curfews, and until elections and a genuine reform process are established. Above all, Hamas will retain its power until the arrival of a peace process that offers a serious international pledge that the occupation will end.
Hamas is confident that such international rescue will not come. And Mr Sharon seems set on ending the intifada by military means. Between them, they have made one thing clear. "With every Palestinian death, Hamas grows stronger," said a Palestinian in Khan Younis.