Enraged Fatah leaders on Saturday accused Hamas militiamen of looting the home of former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat in Gaza City. "They stole almost everything inside the house, including Arafat's Nobel Peace Prize medal," said Ramallah-based Fatah spokesman Ahmed Abdel Rahman. "Hamas militiamen and gangsters blew up the main entrance to the house before storming it. They stole many of Arafat's documents and files, gifts he had received from world leaders and even his military outfits." Abdel Rahman said the attackers also raided the second floor of the house and stole the personal belongings of his widow, Suha, and daughter, Zahwa. "They stole all the widow's clothes and shoes," he added. "They also took Arafat's pictures with his daughter."
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Eyewitnesses told The Jerusalem Post that dozens of Palestinians participated in the raid, which took place late Friday.
"Most of the looters were just ordinary citizens," they said. "They stole almost everything, including furniture, tiles, water pipes, closets and beds."
According to the Fatah spokesman, the raid on Arafat's house, which has been empty since 2001, occurred despite promises from Syria-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to prevent such an attack.
"The Palestinian people will never forgive the Hamas gangs for looting the home of the Palestinian people's great leader, Yasser Arafat," Abdel Rahman said. "This crime will remain a stain of disgrace on the forehead of Hamas and its despicable gangs."
The homes of several other Fatah leaders have also been looted over the past few days, Palestinian reporters in Gaza City said over the weekend. Among them are the homes of Muhammad Dahlan and Intisar al-Wazir (Um Jihad).
Wazir complained that looters stole her jewelry, furniture, clothes and family albums and the personal belongings of her husband, Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad), a top PLO leader who was assassinated by Israel in 1988 in Tunis.
She said the looting occurred in broad daylight and under the watchful eye of Hamas militiamen. "We don't feel secure any more," she said. "We fear for our lives and property."
The Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of various armed groups, announced over the weekend that its men stormed Dahlan's house and confiscated a suitcase full of gold, forged US and Pakistani passports and an ID card belonging to Nissim Toledano, an Israeli Border Police officer from Lod who was kidnapped and murdered by Hamas in December 1992.
Following the raid, hundreds of Palestinians rampaged the house and stole all of Dahlan's furniture and clothes.
Dahlan and some 80 top Fatah officials are now staying in hotels in Ramallah. On Friday night, a group of 15 senior Fatah security commanders arrived in the city after Israel gave them permission to leave the Gaza Strip. At least 150 other Fatah security commanders and activists have fled to Egypt aboard fishing boats.
The Fatah officials who fled to Ramallah had been abducted by Hamas militiamen late Thursday night and released a few hours later. They include Jamal Kayed, commander of the PA's National Security Force; Musbah al-Buhaisi, commander of Abbas's Presidential Guard, and his deputy, Hamoudeh al-Sheikh; Tawfik Abu Khoussa, Fatah's spokesman in the Gaza Strip; and Majed Abu Shamalah, a Fatah legislator.
"What's happening in the Gaza Strip these days reminds me of the first days after the US invasion of Baghdad," said Omar al-Ghul, a columnist from Gaza City. "In Baghdad, the Iraqis stole everything they could get their hands on inside Iraqi ministries and institutions. And in Gaza City the Palestinians stormed security installations and stole everything, including windows, doors and food."