Hamas gunmen CHECK CAPTION 248.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Fatah officials called over the weekend for bringing Hamas leaders to trial on charges of murder, following the bloody clashes between Fatah and Hamas militiamen in the Gaza Strip over the past week.
The call came despite a new cease-fire - the fifth of its kind in recent days - that was announced in the Gaza Strip Saturday afternoon. The latest cease-fire was reached under the auspices of the Egyptians and the Islamic Jihad organization.
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At least 53 Palestinians have been killed and 250 wounded in seven days of fierce fighting between the warring factions.
"It's time to lift the parliamentary immunity from several Hamas leaders who were responsible for the latest atrocities against the Palestinians," said Maher Miqdad, a Fatah spokesman in the Gaza Strip.
He pointed out that two Hamas legislators, Yunis Sharafi and Yunis Astal, had been inciting their followers to kill Fatah and Palestinian Authority security personnel.
Sharafi, he added, had turned his home into an "operations room" for killing two PA security officers, Muhammed Gharib and Hussein Abu Hilal.
Miqdad accused the other Hamas leader, Astal, of issuing several fatwas [religious decrees] calling for the killing of Fatah members and PA policemen.
He also called for pressing charges against former Hamas ministers Mahmoud Zahar and Said Siam for "harming the national interests of the Palestinians and encouraging internecine fighting."
Zahar served as foreign minister in the previous Hamas-controlled government, while Siam was in charge of the interior ministry and was behind the establishment of Hamas's paramilitary security force, known as the Executive Force.
"What is happening in the Gaza Strip is not by coincidence," the Fatah spokesman said. "This is part of a well-planned scheme by bloody elements in Hamas to get rid of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority and to establish an Islamic state in the Gaza Strip. Hamas wants to achieve its goal by shedding the blood of many Palestinians. They are responsible for the execution of several people, for damaging houses and PA civil and security installations."
Fahmi Za'arir, a top Fatah official in the West Bank, said Hamas leaders and activists should be brought to trial for perpetrating "ugly massacres" against the Palestinians.
"We want to see all the murderers of Hamas stand trial," he said. "Those who planned, ordered and financed the killings should also be put on trial. I don't think there will be enough room in the courts of the Gaza Strip for all these murderers."
Earlier Saturday, Fatah and Hamas representatives were summoned to the Egyptian embassy in Gaza City, where they were warned that Egypt would withdraw its diplomats and security officials from the Gaza Strip unless the two parties agreed to a cease-fire.
Following the warning, Hamas and Fatah officials announced that they would stop the fighting as of 3 p.m.
The two sides agreed to pull all their militiamen from the streets and rooftops, remove checkpoints and release all those who were kidnapped in the past few days.
At the meeting, it was also decided that a committee comprising Hamas, Fatah and the Egyptians would be entrusted with supervising the new cease-fire.
An Egyptian diplomat based in the Gaza Strip told The Jerusalem Post that the cease-fire was reached following pressure from President Hosni Mubarak, who held a series of phone conversations with Abbas and Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh.
"Our president made it clear that Egypt was determined to stop the fighting in the Gaza Strip," the diplomat said. "We are happy to see that the two parties have complied with President Mubarak's demand."
Shortly before the cease-fire was announced, Hamas gunmen opened fire at the convoy of Gen. Muhammad al-Masri, a senior commander of the PA's General Intelligence Force in the Gaza Strip.
No one was hurt in the attack. PA security officials condemned the assassination attempt and warned Hamas against targeting security commanders.
The latest cycle of violence in the Gaza Strip drew sharp criticism from many Palestinian analysts, who held both Fatah and Hamas responsible for the bloodshed.
Samir Hamto, a prominent Palestinian political analyst, expressed shock at the ruthless killings on both sides.
"What is happening in the Gaza Strip is beyond all forms of madness and stupidity," he said. "A group of insane people are now controlling the fate of 1.5 million Palestinians living on a small piece of land."
Jamil Salhut, a writer from east Jerusalem, said the Fatah-Hamas clashes prove that the Palestinians are incapable of running their own affairs.
"The regrettable fighting in the Gaza Strip has led many Palestinians to question the capability of Fatah and Hamas in governing," he said. "The Palestinian Authority has failed in providing the Palestinians with security and a dignified life. Perhaps the time has come to call for dissolving the Palestinian Authority and for placing the Palestinian cause in the hands of the Arab League. We have proven that we are incapable of governing."