Six Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip on Sunday threatened to assassinate "collaborators and traitors" in response to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's decision over the weekend to outlaw Hamas's "Executive Force." The groups warned Abbas and senior Fatah leader Muhammad Dahlan against trying to implement the decision which, they claimed, was taken at the request of Israel and the US. Dahlan, who according to Palestinian sources has been asked to head the PA security forces in the Gaza Strip, responded by issuing a threat to eliminate Hamas leaders. One of the six groups that issued the threat belongs to Abbas's own Fatah party. The five others are: Izzadin Kassam, the Abu Rish Brigades, Sword of Islam, the Brigades of Unification and the Salah Eddin Brigades. For a Jerusalem Online video of events click here
Three killed in Hamas-Fatah flare up
Abu Obaidah, a spokesman for the six groups, told reporters in Gaza City that Abbas's security forces were not carrying out their duties to restore law and order. It was a mistake to hold the Executive Force responsible for the anarchy, because it had existed long before the Hamas force was established, he added.
Obaidah said a "rebellious" group inside Fatah was trying to topple the Hamas-led government with the help of the US and Israel. He criticized Abbas for the move against the Hamas force, branding him the "President of the Oslo Accords."
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians braved torrential rain and the cold to participate in a rally marking the 42nd anniversary of the founding of Fatah. The rally, the largest of its kind since 1994, turned into a show of support for Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas.
Chanting "Long live Fatah" and "Death to the Hamas murderers," many of the demonstrators carried pictures of Yasser Arafat and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
The main speaker at the rally, which was held at Yarmouk Stadium, was Dahlan who, along with other Fatah officials, used the platform to launch a scathing attack on Hamas.
Condemning Hamas as a "bunch of murderers and gangsters," Dahlan said: "They are murderers. If they harm one of us, we will harm two of them. If the Hamas leaders think that they are immune, they are mistaken."
"Today you have come to respond to the murderers who are shedding Palestinian blood," Dahlan told the crowd. "As the Israeli army was raiding Ramallah, the forces of disgrace were attacking the home of Palestinian security officer Muhammad Gharib last Thursday [in the northern Gaza Strip]. If they think that the murderers will go unpunished, they are mistaken."
But Dahlan stressed that Fatah was still interested in forming a unity government with Hamas.
"Our hand remains extended for national unity," he said. "The rifles of Fatah are used against the occupation, but they will also be used to protect the sons of Fatah."
Dahlan drew thunderous applause when, at the beginning of his speech, he asked his bodyguards to step aside, saying: "I don't need bodyguards to separate me from these Fatah masses. If Hamas wants, let them shoot me."
Hamas legislators in the Gaza Strip issued a statement in which they described Abbas's decision to ban their Executive Force as illegal. They said the force had been subjected to "a campaign of incitement that began in the US State Department."
In a related development, Hamas threatened to avenge the killing of three of its supporters in Gaza City late Saturday night. The three, members of the Diri family, were killed in a confrontation with members of the Daghmash clan.
"This crime will not pass unpunished," Hamas said. "We will rid our people of these murderers."
The three were killed in retaliation for the kidnapping and murder of two members of the Daghmash clan last month. The Daghmash clan has accused Hamas's Executive Force of cold-bloodedly murdering the two.