Monday, July 28, 2008

Hamas arrests rivals after deadly bomb attacks

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas is moving to suppress an outbreak of violence in the Gaza Strip that began at the start of the weekend and left seven people dead.

Explosions, believed to be the work of the rival Fatah group, on Friday evening near Gaza beach killed five senior Hamas members and a child.

One of the explosions at an intersection was detonated by remote control as a car carrying the five Hamas leaders drove past.

It killed them instantly as well as six-year-old Serena Safadi, who was standing near the intersection.

Another bomb detonated at noon on Friday killed a Hamas official and a third explosion injured three people.

In response, Hamas launched a crackdown against Fatah, arresting up to 160 of its members in dawn raids on Saturday morning.

Gaza security police set up roadblocks across the coastal enclave, seized equipment and files from Fatah's news agency and raided about 40 Fatah-affiliated civic organisations. In one failed arrest attempt, police fired four rocket-propelled grenades at the home of a Fatah leader and exchanged fire with his guards.

Among those killed in Friday's blasts were senior members of Hamas' military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the most prominent of whom was Amar Musbah, the personal aide of the wing's commander, Mohammed Jabari.

Iyad al-Hayeh, the nephew of political bureau member Khalil al-Hayeh, and Nidal al-Mabayed, a high-ranking member of the Qassam Brigades, were also killed.

Fatah tried to deny any involvement in the attack, although scenes of its supporters celebrating news of the attacks were broadcast on Palestinian television.

News organisations received emails of unclear origin claiming that a Fatah offshoot known as the al-Awda (Return) Brigades set off the beachside blast. Hamas carried the statement on its websites, and its leader, Ismail Haniyeh, called it "proof that Fatah is not interested in dialogue".

The email claim could not be verified and Fatah officials said no such group exists.

The prospect of more violence seems likely after one Hamas leader was quoted anonymously in Palestinian media yesterday saying the attacks "will not go by in silence".

Dr Hayeh, speaking at his nephew's funeral, denounced Fatah as collaborators with Israel.

"The collaborators who did this must be hanged in Palestine Square and shot," he said, referring to Gaza City's main square. "The people who stand behind this are from Fatah."

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar said police had information on who was behind the attack.

Among those arrested was a cameraman for German television ARD, Sawah Abu Safeh, Palestinian officials said.

Other Hamas members were quoted accusing Palestinian Authority president and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas of seeking to start a civil war. Mr Abbas was due to visit Egypt for talks on the situation in the territories and national reconciliation efforts.

Hamas and Fatah have had an uneasy truce since June last year, when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. The two had shared power in a short-lived coalition that broke apart when a US-backed attempt by Fatah to take control of Gaza was defeated by Hamas.

The split left Mr Abbas ruling the West Bank under emergency powers and Hamas under Mr Haniyeh, the democratically elected prime minister, in control of Gaza.

Tensions in Gaza cooled last month after Hamas reached a truce with Israel, which, despite scattered violations, has largely held.


Source: The Age

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