A Hamas operative was killed by Fatah gunmen in the West Bank town of Nablus, Hamas officials said early Friday. It was the first such killing in the West Bank after weeks of violence in Gaza and followed a decision by Fatah security commanders to crack down on Hamas in the West Bank to prevent it from taking any positions in that territory, a Fatah stronghold.
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On Thursday, Palestinian security forces allied with Fatah arrested three dozen Hamas activists in the West Bank.
"Last night, there was a decision by the leaders of the security forces to go after Hamas and to arrest them, before they think of bringing the war here," said Issam Abu Bakr, a Fatah leader in Nablus. "This is true for all of the West Bank. Perhaps it was a belated decision, but now we can stand against Hamas and defend ourselves."
Arrests of Hamas activists were reported Thursday in Jenin, Nablus, Jericho, Ramallah and Bethlehem.
In Bethlehem, security forces wore ski masks, to avoid being identified, as they seized Hamas activists in their homes and businesses, witnesses said.
In Nablus, masked security agents and Fatah gunmen rode together in cars, searching for Hamas members, and broke into several homes of Hamas activists. In one area, a brief firefight erupted.
Also Thursday, Fatah gunmen seized a Hamas preacher from a West Bank village and shot him in the legs, security officials said. Later, Fatah activists kidnapped three more Hamas activists from a building in downtown Ramallah.
In Ramallah's Al Quds University, Fatah-allied students kicked out Hamas supporters and forced a suspension of teaching, the officials said.
In Nablus, dozens of gunmen set fire to the third-floor office of several Hamas members of parliament and threw furniture into the street.
Gunmen pulled one man into the street and hit him when he fought back, witnesses said.