Tensions between Hamas and Fatah are running high following a series of violent incidents in the Gaza Strip on Thursday. One Palestinian was killed and 17 wounded in renewed fighting between the two sides in the southern Gaza Strip. Palestinian Authority officials expressed fear that the tensions would lead to another round of bloody fighting. About 160 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds wounded in internecine fighting in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the beginning of the year.
Disputes scuttle Abbas-Olmert summit
Burhan Hammad, the top Egyptian security representative in the Gaza Strip, warned about renewed fighting between the two parties. He blamed "suspicious parties" among the Palestinians for working to renew the violence. Although he did not name the parties, his remarks were seen as directed toward a number of Fatah warlords, including Muhammad Dahlan.
Hammad, who met with PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas late Wednesday night, is reportedly upset about Fatah security chiefs allegedly attempting to resume fighting with Hamas.
At the meeting, Haniyeh protested Egypt's readiness to transfer weapons to Fatah. He warned that such a move would lead to civil war, saying Egypt should not be involved in US and Israeli attempts to meddle in Palestinian affairs, a source close to Haniyeh said.
Hassan al-Bazam, 20, who works as a bodyguard for Haniyeh, was kidnapped Monday night by Fatah gunmen. He said the kidnappers tortured him and forced him to curse God and the prophet Muhammad.
"I was on my way to the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood [in Gaza City] when I was kidnapped by Fatah gunmen who were in two cars," Bazam said. "They took me to a building next to the beach, where they beat me severely with clubs and rifles.
"They extinguished cigarettes on my body and melted candles on my back. They also hung me from my hands and started shooting between my legs."
He said the kidnappers demanded a list of Hamas activists in his neighborhood and questioned him about the killing last month of a senior Fatah militiaman.
Bazam said he was released seven hours later, but only after he agreed to curse God and Muhammad. Bazam said the kidnappers also shaved his eyebrows, beard and part of his head, which was then marked with a Force 17 [Presidential Guard] sign.
"These people are real murderers," Bazam said. "Even the Jews did not do such cruel things to us."
Fayez Barawi, a prominent physician from the northern Gaza Strip with close links to Hamas, was kidnapped, shot and moderately wounded on Thursday by members of one of the PA security organizations. He was abducted while attending a graduation ceremony of members of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Presidential Guard at a local security installation. His brother was one of the officers who graduated.
Barawi was taken to a nearby security base where PA officers shot him five times in different parts of the body.
Abdel Latif Kanu, a senior Hamas official in the northern Gaza Strip, strongly condemned the attack on Barawi, saying he had been shot in one of the bases belonging to Abbas's security forces.
Kanu said Hamas will not remain idle in the face of "these crimes."
Earlier Thursday, a Fatah activist was killed in a clash with Hamas gunmen in Rafah. The victim was identified as 27-year-old Wael Wahbi. Sources close to Hamas said Wahbi was among a group of Fatah gunmen who attacked Hamas supporters outside a local mosque.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a top Hamas representative, said "certain elements" in the PA security forces were seeking to ignite another round of violence between Fatah and Hamas.
"These people are not interested in maintaining the cease-fire [between Hamas and Fatah]," he said. "Each time we try to restore law and order they step up their crimes against us."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas are scheduled to meet in Cairo in mid-June, PA Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr said Thursday. The summit, originally planned for Thursday in Jericho, was called off because of differences between the two parties over a number of issues.
Abu Amr did not give a specific date for the next meeting. But he said Abbas and Olmert were expected to meet on the sidelines of a meeting of representatives of the Quartet in the Egyptian capital.