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(photo credit: AP)
At least six Palestinians were wounded Tuesday in confrontations between Hamas and Fatah supporters in various locations in the Gaza Strip.
The clashes erupted as thousands of Fatah activists and Palestinian Authority security officers took to the streets to protest against the slaying of the three children of a top PA General Intelligence Force officer in Gaza City early Monday.
Fatah urges Abbas to dismiss gov't following shooting
PA security officials announced that two suspects were arrested early Tuesday in connection with the killings, but refused to provide further details.
Meanwhile, Hamas strongly denied any link to the killing of the three children, accusing PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party of exploiting the tragedy to incite against the Hamas-led government.
Sources close to Hamas in the Gaza Strip claimed that the killings were related to a power struggle inside Fatah and the PA security forces. They revealed that some senior Fatah and PA security officers have sought protection from Hamas for fear of being targeted by their own colleagues.
"The coming days will prove that the children of [General Intelligence officer] Baha Ba'lousheh were murdered by people working with him in the force and the Fatah party," one source told The Jerusalem Post. "Ba'lousheh knows very well who his real enemies are."
Eyewitnesses said hundreds of Fatah gunmen and PA security officers went on a rampage in Khan Yunis, blocking main roads and shooting at Hamas-run institutions and public buildings.
The protesters also fired at members of Hamas's "Executive Force" in the city, wounding two passersby, the eyewitnesses added. They said that when the Hamas militiamen returned fire, another three people were injured, among them two Fatah gunmen.
Khan Yunis is a stronghold of Fatah supporters and the hometown of Fatah warlord and former PA security minister Muhammad Dahlan.
Islam Shahwan, a spokesman for the "Executive Force," accused Fatah and Palestinian security officers of rioting in the city and attacking civilians and public buildings, including a school. "Our men were very restrained, but the Fatah gunmen endangered their lives when they opened fire at them," he said. "Fatah and the Palestinian security forces are responsible for the state of chaos." Fatah supporters in the Jabalya refugee camp threw stones at a car carrying Hamas legislator Muhammad Shihab. They also fired several shots at the home of a commander of the "Executive Force" in the northern Gaza Strip. No casualties were reported in both incidents.
Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan warned Abbas and Fatah against exploiting the killing of the children for "suspicious political goals." He added, "These murderous attacks, which are part of the state of anarchy and lawlessness in our areas, are designed to provide Abbas with an excuse to bring down the Hamas-led government," he charged.
The increased tensions come amid speculation that Abbas is about to call early elections for the parliament and presidency of the PA.
Azzam al-Ahmed, a top Fatah official and close advisor to Abbas, said the PA chairman had accepted recommendations by Fatah and PLO leaders to dissolve the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council and announce early elections, perhaps next March.
Ahmed said Abbas will deliver a speech next Saturday in which he will call for early legislative and presidential elections in light of the growing turmoil.
"This government is not able to tackle the state of anarchy and lawlessness," Ahmed said. "We are suffering from political, moral and security chaos. This government has only brought us one disaster after the other."
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