View Full Version : Hamas Pushes Offenseive Against Fatah In Gaza

06-13-2007, 06:35 PM
Hamas pushes offensive against Fatah in Gaza


Published: Wednesday June 13, 2007

GAZA CITY - A huge blast levelled a major Fatah post in southern Gaza on Wednesday as Hamas tried to defeat its military rivals amid warnings the deadly showdown could lead to an all-out Palestinian civil war.

The headquarters of the pro-Fatah preventive security force in Khan Yunis was "totally destroyed" after a bomb exploded in a tunnel underneath, said its chief, Yussef Eissa.

At least three people were killed, medics said.

In western Gaza City, mortars and rockets continued to slam into another headquarters of the secular Fatah party of president Mahmud Abbas, as the men holed up inside returned fire at Islamist Hamas fighters.

More than 70 people, including civilians, have been killed in three days of vicious gunbattles between the bitter rivals, separated by ideology and locked in a steadily escalating struggle for power.

Fierce gunfire erupted after the explosion in Khan Yunis, witnesses said, with Hamas pushing to take control in the south of the territory a day after chasing its Fatah rivals from the north.

An Egyptian security source said 40 pro-Fatah policemen had fled into neighbouring Egypt in the midst of the pounding "fearing for their lives because of the violence of the clashes."

And about 300 men of the powerful Fatah-allied Baqr clan surrendered to Hamas in Gaza City's Shati neighbourhood, one of the elders told AFP.

Egyptian mediators were making intensive contacts to try to arrange a high-level meeting between Fatah and Hamas for their fighters to be taken off the streets, a senior official in Cairo said.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit, meanwhile, requested an urgent meeting of the Arab League at the ministerial level.

As the internecine bloodshed pushed one of the world's most densely-populated places toward all-out civil war, Abbas warned of a collapse unless the Gaza "madness" stopped, with international players echoing the call.

"Without a stop to fighting, I believe that the situation will collapse in Gaza," said Abbas.

Russia said further escalation risked "leading to total chaos... and the spread of conflict in the region," and the EU and UN have also called for an immediate halt to the clashes.

Several dozen Gazans, a wheelchair-bound man and numerous women among them, braved the shooting to demonstrate against the violence, with some fearlessly charging gunmen to force them to stop shooting.

But two of the demonstrators were killed and more than 10 others wounded after coming under fire.

The spiralling violence has threatened to topple the Palestinian unity cabinet, drive impoverished Gaza toward full anarchy and torpedo international efforts to revive dormant peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

The US-based Human Rights Watch accused both sides of committing war crimes during their battles, which have turned hospitals into battlegrounds amid ever-rising levels of animosity.

Abbas spoke by phone to the exiled Hamas political supremo Khaled Meshaal on Wednesday to explore ways of ending the conflict, which spilled over into the occupied West Bank previously spared the fighting.

Two separate gunbattles erupted on Wednesday in the northern West Bank town of Nablus, wounding a dozen people, one of them a civilian, witnesses said. Eleven Hamas men were kidnapped shortly afterward.

At least 21 people were killed in the day's fighting, including a boy mowed down in the crossfire and the peace demonstrators, medics said.

Among the dead have been two workers for the main UN refugee agency, which announced it was temporarily suspending Gaza operations, except for essential and emergency services, saying it could "not take further risks."

Hamas issued an ultimatum to Fatah fighters to surrender all weapons by 1600 GMT on Friday or be considered wanted men.

Fatah has threatened to pull its ministers out of the unity cabinet it formed with Hamas three months ago unless the shooting stopped.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned of serious "regional consequences" if Gaza fell completely under the control of Hamas, considered a terror group by the Jewish state, the EU and the US.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said all options would be considered to restore calm, including Olmert's call to dispatch international troops to the border between Gaza and Egypt.

Since the latest bout of the internecine bloodshed flared last Thursday, at least 71 people have been killed and more than 150 wounded, the vast majority of them over the past three days.

US warns Palestinians over violence


Published: Wednesday June 13, 2007

The White House urged the Palestinians Wednesday to "sort out their politics" and end infighting, warning that the deadly violence endangers prospects for a Palestinian state.

At the same time, spokesman Tony Snow refused to say whether clashes between the secular Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Islamist Hamas fighters amounted to "civil war."

Violence certainly does not serve the interest of the Palestinian people, and it's not going to bring the peace and prosperity that they deserve," Snow told reporters.

"Ultimately, the Palestinians are going to have to sort out their politics and figure out which pathway they want to pursue -- the pathway toward two states living peaceably side-by-side, or whether this sort of chaos is going to become a problem," he warned.

A huge blast leveled a major Fatah post in southern Gaza on Wednesday as Hamas pushed an offensive against its rival amid warnings the deadly showdown could lead to an all-out Palestinian civil war.

Asked about such warnings, Snow replied: "I'm not going to characterize. We are certainly taking careful note of what's going on."

"We also are very concerned about the deteriorating economic and humanitarian conditions, both in Gaza and the West Bank, and remain committed through appropriate ways to make sure that innocent people in Gaza and the West Bank receive the humanitarian assistance necessary," he said.

Meanwhile, a State Department spokesman on Wednesday said that internal divisions within the radical Hamas group have contributed to the unrest in Gaza.

"It is clear that there are deep divisions within Hamas," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

"I think that if you look at any analysis of what has happened, it is the 'military wing' of Hamas that has decided that at least at this moment, they are going to try to derail any sort of political reconciliation," he said.

More than 70 people, including civilians, have been killed in three days of vicious gun battles between Hamas and Fatah, separated by ideology and locked in a steadily escalating struggle for power.