Fatah declares all-out war on Hamas in West Bank

Fatah's armed wing declares Hamas an "illegal" movement in the West Bank and warns against supporting it.

al aksa in street 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
al aksa in street 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Fatah gunmen and security officers stepped up their attacks over the weekend on Hamas figures and institutions in the West Bank, saying the crackdown would continue "until the West Bank was free from Hamas." Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, declared Hamas an "illegal" movement in the West Bank and warned anyone against supporting it. Hamas strongly condemned the Fatah offensive and said its men would punish those responsible. Hamas spokesmen described the clampdown as an "ethnic cleansing" and said Israel was assisting Fatah. On Friday, Fatah gunmen in Nablus kidnapped and murdered Anis Salous, a 35-year-old Hamas activist. The gunmen also set fire to a number of Hamas-affiliated charities and media offices. Also in Nablus, Fatah men on Saturday kidnapped Muhammad Ishtaiwi, the director of Hamas's Al-Aksa TV in the West Bank. Eyewitnesses said the gunmen raided the Nablus Municipal building and posted Fatah flags on the roof. The city's mayor and his deputy, both Hamas representatives, were arrested by the IDF last month. In Ramallah, about 50 Fatah men raided the home of el-Bireh Mayor Jamal Tawil, who is in an Israeli jail, and arrested two of his relatives. The gunmen destroyed furniture and threatened to kill his wife and children. They also attacked the offices of the Palestinian Legislative Council and expelled some of its employees. Most offices of Hamas legislators in the West Bank have been torched over the past few days. Many businesses owned by Hamas supporters have also been looted and set on fire. Fatah gunmen stormed the offices of several PA ministries in the West Bank and evicted employees known for their close links to Hamas. Hamas officials said they documented more than 250 attacks by Fatah in the West Bank in the past three days. "The traitors and murderers of Fatah are carrying out ethnic cleansing against Hamas in the West Bank," a Hamas official said in Gaza City. "They have kidnapped many civil servants and members of municipal councils." Ahmed Bahr, a senior Hamas representative in the Gaza Strip, said his movement held Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas personally responsible for the clampdown. "We warn Abbas and his Fatah faction against continuing their assaults on Hamas," he said. Bahr and other Hamas leaders claimed Israel was helping Fatah in its war against Hamas by allowing Fatah militiamen to move around freely and to enter Israeli-controlled areas to kidnap Hamas figures.