gaza fatah march 298 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Sources in Vice Premier Shimon Peres' office issued a statement on Friday that condemned the media reports that Israel had agreed to supply weapons to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's security forces.
The statement called the reports "irresponsible" and said that publication of what was supposed to remain classified information could "compromise" Abbas, Army Radio reported.
Abbas's office denied on Friday morning that he had asked Israel to supply weapons to the presidential guard force in order to strengthen its position against the Hamas.
"There wasn't a single grain of truth in the Israeli reports," Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu-Rudeineh said.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz decided, in accordance with defense establishment recommendations, to allow the transfer of weapons and ammunition from Israel to supporters of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The amount of weapons to be transferred was limited, and came out of concern for Abbas' life and position at the head of the PA, security officials said.
Sources in the Likud were quick to condemn the decision. "Whoever gives weapons to the [Palestinian] Authority gives legitimacy to the rest of the world to transfer money to the PA," said MK Yuval Steinitz.
This was the first time that Israel took an active role in the clashes between Hamas members and Palestinian security forces started a week ago.
Earlier in the day, the fighting between the rival security groups left one security officer dead and eight members of the Fatah-controlled security force wounded, doctors and witnesses said.
Both Hamas and the security force accused each other of firing first. The shootout in Gaza City occurred when a group of security officers riding in a car on their way back from the funeral of a top security commander clashed with the new militia.
The violence was the latest in a string of gunfights, assassinations and bombings between members of the Fatah-controlled security forces and a new security unit formed by Hamas to counter Fatah's control of the streets.
The political tension between Hamas and Fatah reached a new peak on Thursday when Abbas lashed out at the rampant violence in the Palestinian streets and demanded that Hamas agree to establish a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. Otherwise, Abbas warned, he would take the matter to a national referendum and let the Palestinian people decide.
On Wednesday a Gaza security chief loyal to Abbas was killed in a car bomb, the second attack on security commanders in volatile Gaza in less than a week.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which followed another bloody day in Gaza in which three Hamas men were kidnapped.
One of the Hamas men was killed, and all three were either beaten up or shot before being dumped outside a gas station.
The security chief killed Wednesday evening was identified as Nabil Hodhod, head of the elite Preventive Security Service in central Gaza.