The Hamas government has placed dozens of Fatah members under house arrest out of fear that they might exploit the current IDF operation to regain control of the Gaza Strip.
The move came amid reports that the Fatah leadership in the West Bank has instructed its followers to be ready to assume power over the Gaza Strip when and if Israel's military operation results in the removal of Hamas rule.
Fatah officials in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post
that Hamas militiamen had been assaulting many Fatah activists since the beginning of the operation last Saturday. They said at least 75 activists were shot in the legs while others had their hands broken.
Wisam Abu Jalhoum, a Fatah activist from the Jabalya refugee camp, was shot in the legs by Hamas militiamen for allegedly expressing joy over the IDF air strikes on Hamas targets.
"Hamas is very nervous, because they feel that their end is nearing," a senior Fatah official said. "They have been waging a brutal campaign against Fatah members in the Gaza Strip."
Meanwhile, sources close to Hamas revealed over the weekend that the movement had "executed" more than 35 Palestinians who were suspected of collaborating with Israel and were being held in various Hamas security installations.
The sources quoted Hamas officials as saying that the decision to kill the suspected collaborators was taken out of fear that Israel might try to rescue them during a ground offensive. The officials claimed that at least half of the victims were killed by relatives of Palestinian militiamen who were killed as a result of information passed on to Israel by the "collaborators."
Justifying the latest crackdown on Fatah, a Hamas official in Gaza City said that his government had received information according to which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had instructed his loyalists in the Strip to start moving toward undermining Hamas.
"We will kill them all if they try to help Israel bring down our government," the official said. "We will hang Mahmoud Abbas and [former Fatah security chief] Muhammad Dahlan in the public square if they try to enter the Gaza Strip aboard Israeli tanks."
The Hamas official said that his security forces had launched a massive "preemptive" campaign aimed at thwarting Fatah's attempts to "spread anarchy and chaos." He confirmed that many Fatah operatives had been shot in the legs over the past few days by Hamas "to make sure that they don't help Israel."
Fahmi Za'arir, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, accused Hamas of "executing" a number of Fatah detainees. He said the Fatah leadership knew of at least two Fatah men who were shot dead by Hamas after being released from prison. He named them as Nasser Muhana and Saher al-Silawi.
Za'arir said that several Fatah members who attended funerals of victims of the IAF strikes were severely beaten by Hamas militiamen who accused them of collaboration with Israel.
It was "shameful" that Hamas was directing its weapons and energies against its own people instead of fighting against Israel, the spokesman said.
The decision to place Fatah operatives under house arrest was issued by the much-feared "Internal Security Apparatus," which reports to the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry in Gaza.
The order, which was delivered to the Fatah activists on Thursday, reads: "You are forbidden from leaving your home for 48 hours unless you want to attend Friday prayers. Anyone who violates the order will be punished."