Hamas on Wednesday accused the US of promoting civil war among the Palestinians by transferring $86 million to strengthen forces loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Meanwhile, the PA Ministry of Health announced that 58 Palestinians were killed in the fighting between Hamas and Fatah during January. Half of the victims were killed in armed clashes that erupted between the two parties in the Gaza Strip in the last week of the month, the ministry said.
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Apart from embarrassing Abbas and his Fatah party, the public announcement drew sharp criticism from Hamas and other radical Palestinian factions.
"This is a flagrant intervention in the internal affairs of the Palestinians," said Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan. "The announcement by the White House is aimed at driving the Palestinians toward civil war."
He also claimed that the decision was designed to thwart efforts by Hamas and Fatah to establish a Palestinian unity government. "The Americans don't want the Palestinians to resolve their differences," he said. "All they are interested in is bringing down the Hamas-led government and promoting civil war."
The Hamas-led government issued a strongly worded statement in which it accused the US of seeking to "colonize" the Palestinians. "The US policy is based on consolidating schism and internal disputes in the region," it charged. "We urge the Palestinians to be aware of these American-Zionist schemes."
Sources close to Hamas claimed on Wednesday that Fatah was preparing to bring into the Gaza Strip from Egypt large amounts of weapons. They said the new shipments, consisting of rifles and ammunition, were waiting on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing.
According to the sources, the weapons are intended to help Abbas's security forces in the confrontation with Hamas. They said some of the weapons would be brought secretly into the Gaza Strip in ambulances.
PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is expected to visit a number of Arab countries soon to discuss ways of resolving the current crisis in the PA. It will be his third tour since taking over as prime minister.
Despite the cease-fire agreement reached between Hamas and Fatah early Tuesday morning, gunmen belonging to the two sides exchanged gunfire in some parts of the Gaza Strip.
Ihab Sultan, a senior member of Hamas's armed wing, was shot and seriously wounded in Gaza City. Hours later, Hamas gunmen shot and wounded Bashir Issa, a member of Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades.
Leaflets distributed by Fatah in the Gaza Strip vowed to avenge the killing of several Fatah leaders and members by Hamas gunmen over the past week. The leaflets condemned Hamas's militias as gangs and murderers, saying all those responsible for the killings would soon be punished.