From correspondents in Gaza City | August 15
CLASHES between Hamas and Islamist radicals have killed 13 and injured at least 100 in one of the most violent incidents in the region since Israel's onslaught in January.
The clashes were sparked when Hamas police stormed a Gaza mosque where radicals had declared an Islamist "emirate," emergency services say.
Shooting began in the afternoon following weekly prayers, witnesses said, and continued into the evening. The incident occurred in the southern city of Rafah, which straddles the Egyptian border.
Among the dead was Mohammed al-Shamali, head of the Hamas military unit for southern Gaza.
Emergency services said that bodies of some other victims could not be reached because of the intensity of the fighting.
Twenty of the wounded were said to be in serious condition as the confrontation developed into one of the most violent incidents in Gaza since Israel's 22-day onslaught on the impoverished enclave in December and January.
An Egyptian security official said a three-year-old boy was critically wounded by a bullet from the fighting across the border.
Witnesses said that following prayers, a group of Palestinians announced the formation of the Islamist "emirate," defying the authority of Hamas, which has ruled Gaza's 1.5 million people for the past two years.
"We are today proclaiming the creation of an Islamist Emirate in the Gaza Strip," Abdul Latif Musa said at the Bin Taymiyya mosque, witnesses said.
He was surrounded by armed fighters and spoke on behalf of Jund Ansar Allah (Soldiers of the Partisans of God).
Jund Ansar Allah seeks the strict enforcement of Islamic Sharia law and accuses Hamas of being too liberal, witnesses in Gaza said.
Rafah is the Gaza stronghold of the so-called Salafist movement, of which Jund Ansar Allah is said to a part and which is ideologically close to Al-Qaeda.
Hamas police reportedly blocked all entrances to Rafah and dynamited Musa's house, although it is not clear whether the Islamist was there at the time.
Source: The Australian