fatah young and old 88.
(photo credit: )
Hamas vowed on Wednesday to punish Palestinian Authority officials in Fatah who are involved in land theft in the former settlements in the Gaza Strip.
The threat came amid reports that top PA officials and Fatah gunmen have taken over lands in Gush Katif, particularly after Hamas won the January 25 Palestinian Legislative Council elections.
Hamas and many families living in the area expressed deep concern over the land grab, accusing the PA of failing to take measures against the perpetrators.
Unidentified gunmen in Gaza City on Wednesday kidnapped Atef al-Khoudari, the director-general of the Palestinian Lands Authority.
The abduction is apparently linked to allegations that senior PA officials had illegally seized control of lands belonging to the former settlements in Gush Katif. Khoudari's authority has come under sharp criticism for failing to prevent the officials and local Fatah gangs from stealing the lands.
The incident took place in the Rimal neighborhood. At least four masked gunmen stormed Khoudari's office and abducted him at gunpoint.
Salah Bardawil, a Hamas spokesman, accused top PA officials of laying their hands on public lands through intimidation and extortion. "They are stealing the lands [in Gush Katif] in broad daylight," he said. "This is an immoral act and the thieves must be brought to trial."
Bardawil said Hamas was in touch with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to try to solve the problem.
"We have sent President Abbas several messages informing him about the land theft and urging him to order the Palestinian security forces to intervene," he said. "Abbas said he was totally opposed to the phenomenon and promised to look into the allegations."
However, Bardawil said that despite Abbas's promise, he and other Hamas leaders were told by the PA security forces in Khan Yunis that they had not received any instructions from the PA chairman.
"The liberated lands belong to all the Palestinians, and not to a small group of thieves," he said. "The Palestinian security forces are fully responsible for these lands and the greenhouses that were left behind by the settlers. All those who are abusing these public lands will be severely punished, sooner or later."
Residents of Khan Yunis and Mawassi in the southern Gaza Strip sent an urgent letter to Abbas on Wednesday calling on him to stop the land theft.
They claimed that some senior PA officials and members of armed militias had taken control of many areas in Gush Katif by fencing them off or establishing temporary structures there.
"These are public lands and our people are in grave need of them," the residents wrote. "Our people need them to build public buildings that would serve the general public and future generations."
The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights expressed concern over the kidnapping of Khoudari, describing it as a serious incident which is a continuation of the internal security chaos seen in the PA-controlled areas.
The center called on the PA to investigate and to bring the perpetrators to justice.