Hamas expects to form a coalition government with the rival Fatah movement by early March, a senior official said on Saturday. Parliament speaker Ahmed Baher told a news conference he expected Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas to present a new coalition government for the legislature's approval "by the first week of March." Palestinians also hope the international community will resume aid flows to a government moderated by the presence of Fatah, led by the separately elected PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Palestinian Affairs: A Mecca prayer unanswered
Hamas has refused, agreeing in the power-sharing pact only to "respect" past peace accords.
Meanwhile, four Palestinians were killed and 37 wounded in Gaza Strip shootings late Friday and early Saturday, threatening the calm that has accompanied the Mecca accords.
The violence began shortly before midnight Saturday when Muhammad Ghelban, a 28-year-old commander from Hamas's military wing, was killed in a drive-by shooting outside of his home. A 22-year-old man from a Fatah family, Hazem Karouah, was killed several hours later, as was 75-year-old Ismail Sabah, who was caught in the line of fire.
A fourth woman, 27-year-old Ghada Karouah, died of gunshot wounds later in the day.
Four of the wounded were in critical condition, hospital officials said.
In keeping with efforts to maintain the fragile calm, the two factions did not openly blame each other. But in a statement to The Associated Press, Hamas's military wing accused "suspect figures hiding behind the cover of Karouah family" of executing Ghelban. The statement called on the Karouah family "to stop protecting the killers" and said Hamas fighters reserved the right to punish the killer.
Government spokesman Ghazi Hamad of Hamas denounced the latest violence in a statement to reporters, and accused some groups of "trying to revive the internal conflict through acts of aggression."