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As the fighting between Fatah and Hamas continues in the Gaza Strip, many residents here said Saturday that they were concerned that the international community would turn its back on the Palestinians.
Although the street battles remain restricted to the Gaza Strip, tensions are mounting in the West Bank between supporters of the two parties, particularly in the aftermath of the abduction of several Hamas figures by Fatah gunmen over the past few days.
Many Hamas leaders in the West Bank, where Fatah remains the stronger party, are said to have gone underground for fear of being targeted by members of Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades.
On Friday, the group issued a warning to all Hamas leaders in the West Bank to condemn the fighting in the Gaza Strip or face retaliatory measures.
On Saturday, a number of Hamas figures in the West Bank came under attack by Fatah gunmen. In Kalkilya, the gunmen opened fire at the home of the city's Hamas mayor, Wajih Kawwas. No one was hurt. In Nablus, three Hamas members were kidnapped and the offices of the movement's legislators were set on fire.
Fayez Abu Rawdah, a senior Hamas official in Ramallah, was kidnapped for four hours on Friday night. His Fatah captors released him after handing him a letter addressed to the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip. The letter contained a threat to kill all Hamas leaders in the West Bank.
"Everyone here is disgusted by what's happening in the Gaza Strip," said Shireen Atiyeh, a 30-year-old mother of three working in one of the Palestinian Authority ministries. "We are telling the world that we don't deserve a state because we are murdering each other and destroying our universities, colleges, mosques and hospitals. Today I'm ashamed to say that I'm a Palestinian."
Ayman Abu Khalaf, a 40-year-old businessman, said he was seriously considering moving with his family to Jordan because of the growing state of anarchy and lawlessness in the PA territories.
"The situation is very dangerous and many people are afraid to leave their homes," he said. "I'm very worried about the safety of my children. There are many armed gangs and everyone is afraid. If the situation does not improve, I will take my family and go to Jordan. This is not the Palestine we want to live in."
Hafez Barghouti, editor of the PA-funded daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, said he was concerned that the fighting would tarnish the image of the Palestinians. "Tens of millions of people now look at us as worthless gangsters with no values," he complained.
Addressing both Hamas and Fatah, he added: "Take Gaza and turn it into a state of the Muslim Brotherhood. Take the West Bank and establish a state of your own there with all the Abu's. Your people no longer want a state. We no longer like our killers and executioners."
Columnist Mahmoud Habbash also acknowledged that the fighting had caused grave damage to the Palestinians on the international arena. The internal fighting, he said, has distorted the image of the Palestinians in the eyes of the world.
"The world is watching how the Palestinians are destroying their institutions and achievements with their own hands. They see how we are mercilessly slaughtering innocent people. We are losing the sympathy of the world. I'm afraid the world will now view us differently."
Reflecting the gloomy mood on the Palestinian street, political analyst Ikrimah Thabet said: "There is no reason for optimism. This is a real conflict stemming from two contradictory programs and political and ideological discord. The divisions are so deep that no temporary cease-fire will help. The bloody events have caused enormous damage to the reputation of the Palestinians, especially in light of the filthy and painful violence that has claimed the lives of children, activists, leaders and innocent civilians."