Fatah and Hamas welcome Saudi king's summit proposal

Abdullah urges urgent meeting in Mecca; Hamas 'Executive Force' member gunned down in Gaza; Fatah kidnaps 11 Hamas members.

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King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called on Sunday for a peace summit between Fatah and Hamas in the holy city of Mecca. In a letter sent by the king, he urged the Palestinians to convene immediately for talks in a neutral atmosphere and without pressure from outsiders.
  • Hamas: Dahlan behind violence Speaking to the Saudi Press Agency, Abdullah said: "With hope, desire and determination, I call on my Palestinian brothers - the people and leaders - to immediately end this adversity ... I urge them to hold an emergency meeting in Mecca to discuss the contentious matters without any intervention from outside." Spokesmen from each of the Hamas and Fatah factions welcomed the Saudi king's offer but did not give dates when the talks might be held. The proposition came at the end of a particularly bloody weekend in the Palestinian territories in which at least 27 people were killed and over 80 were wounded in ferocious factional fighting. The Saudi king also cited verses from the Koran, the Islamic holy book, that urge Muslims not to fight one another. The king also affirmed that the Kingdom will not be standing still watching what is happening in Palestine without taking action, describing the crisis as "shame" that has sullied the Palestinian cause. "Our hearts bleed for what is happening in the land of our Palestinian brothers," the Saudi king said. "This great atrocity with all its unjustified and weak reasons has stained the Palestinian's honorable national struggle." Just moments after the Saudi announcement, Palestinian gunmen shot to death a member of Hamas's "Executive Force" in the Gaza Strip, medical officials and Gaza residents reported. A Hamas spokesman blamed the Fatah-affiliated Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades for the attack. A second gunmen was killed later, hospital officials said. His affiliation was not immediately known. Earlier Sunday, Palestinian gunmen allied to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas marched into a downtown bank in Nablus and kidnapped a local Hamas leader in front of news crews and startled tellers, as violence between Abbas's Fatah movement and Hamas spilled over from Gaza into the West Bank. Elsewhere in Nablus, armed Al Aksa members torched district offices of the Hamas-run Education Ministry and snatched five staffers. Two more Hamas members were grabbed in separate incidents in the city. In northern Gaza, three Hamas loyalists were abducted. In Nablus, a group of about 15 Al Aksa gunmen were roaming the streets looking for known Hamas members, and attracting a tail of newsmen as they went, when they stormed into the city's Arab Islamic Bank and spotted Fayyad Al-Arba standing in line. Without bothering to mask their faces or stop news cameras recording the scene, they hustled the protesting Hamas man out of the building and into a car, which sped away. Shortly after the bank abduction, Al Aksa men raided the Nablus offices of the Education Ministry, abducting five employees, trashing furniture and fittings, and causing extensive fire damage to the premises, said Ahmed Doleh, director of the ministry in Nablus. An Al Aksa spokesman identified as Abu Sharar said one of the men taken from the ministry offices was a bodyguard for Education Minister Nasser Shaer, who also serves as deputy prime minister. Al Aksa also said it had grabbed another two Hamas members in Nablus, but did not give details. Among the casualties over the weekend was two-year-old Yehya Abu Bakreh, who was killed when Fatah gunmen fired at his father's car. Fatah gunmen and Palestinian Authority policemen also attacked a mosque in Gaza City, killing a number of worshipers. The fighting, the heaviest between the two parties since Hamas came to power a year ago, left the streets of Gaza City completely deserted except for hundreds of gunmen and police officers. The PA Ministry of Education announced that studies in universities and schools would be suspended until further notice due to the growing violence. Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.