Violent protests continue in Gaza

1 killed Saturday; Abbas firm to block Hamas deployment of "Executive Force."

October 21, 2006 20:56
3 minute read.
Violent protests continue in Gaza

dead palestinian 298.88. (photo credit: AP)


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Palestinian security forces loyal to Fatah blocked main Gaza Strip intersections on Sunday, burning tires and snarling traffic to protest the Hamas government's inability to pay their salaries. The protest, which erupted into an armed battle with members of Hamas's "Executive Force" overnight Saturday, resulted in the killing of one person. Three others were wounded, witnesses and hospital officials said.

  • Analysis: Abbas's growing predicament (Oct. 19)
  • Gunmen fire on Haniyeh's motorcade The Hamas force tried to quell the protest by the security men, and a Hamas member was stabbed and moderately wounded, sparking several hours of gunbattles. Mohammed Shahadeh, a well-known Fatah activist, was fatally shot outside his home, hospital officials said. Three other people, including one bystander, were wounded. The fighting continued throughout the night, with gunmen from the rival sides posted on rooftops. The clashes occurred near the Bureij and Nusseirat refugee camps in central Gaza after the security personnel began demonstrating to demand salaries on the eve of a major Muslim holiday. Earlier Saturday, Palestinian officials in Ramallah said that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had ordered the PA security forces to thwart Hamas's plan to deploy members of its Executive Force in the West Bank. PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, who is also one of the leaders of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, announced on Friday that his movement had plans to deploy members of the Executive Force in the West Bank to protect Hamas officials and institutions. "We will increase the number of the members of our Executive Force," Zahar told supporters in Khan Yunis. "We will establish a similar force in the West Bank so that no one will torch the offices of the prime minister or attack our ministers and legislators." The controversial Executive Force was established earlier this year by Interior Minister Said Siam to help the PA security forces impose law and order in the Gaza Strip. But the 3,000-strong force has been strongly condemned as "illegal" by Abbas and members of his Fatah party. They have repeatedly argued that the force's presence on the streets was the main reason behind increased tensions between Fatah and Hamas. Although Hamas is less popular in the West Bank than the Gaza Strip, PA officials expressed fear that the Islamic movement was in the early stages of setting up a new security force in the northern part of the West Bank. The officials were surprised over the weekend when Hamas managed to bring hundreds of its gunmen to a paramilitary march in the streets of Kalkilya. On Thursday, hundreds of Hamas gunmen participated in the funeral of a top Hamas operative, Ammar Taher, who was assassinated as he walked out of a Nablus mosque. "President Abbas has issued firm instructions to the Palestinian security forces to prevent Hamas from deploying members of its militia in the West Bank," a senior PA official told The Jerusalem Post. "Armed Fatah groups have also been ordered to foil the Hamas plan." Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior Fatah official in Ramallah, said the presence of Hamas militiamen in the West Bank would pose a real threat to political and social stability. "We will do everything to thwart the Hamas initiative," he vowed. "This force has done awful things in the Gaza Strip and we don't want them here. They are responsible for the state of anarchy and lawlessness in the Gaza Strip." Another Fatah representative, Samir Nayfeh, warned that the deployment of a Hamas force in the West Bank would escalate tensions between the two sides and result in civil war. "We urge Hamas to stop its provocations," he said. "The presence of a Hamas militia in the West Bank will not contribute to calm. In any case, Fatah is not afraid of this force." Meanwhile, Abbas returned to Ramallah on Saturday after a brief visit to the Gaza Strip, where he met with representatives of various PLO factions to discuss his idea of establishing a new government dominated by technocrats and independents. In a sign of continued tensions with Hamas, Abbas did not meet during the visit with any representative of the government or the Islamic movement. Abbas's aides said he decided not to meet with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh after the latter reiterated over the weekend his opposition to the formation of a technocratic government. They added that Abbas was also enraged by charges by some Hamas leaders that he was receiving millions of dollars from the US to overthrow the Haniyeh's government.

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