Nine dead, 90 wounded in Hamas-Fatah clash in Gaza

hamas gaza badass 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
hamas gaza badass 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Nine Palestinians were killed - including members of Hamas's security forces - and more than 90 were wounded in fighting that erupted Saturday between Hamas and Fatah members in Gaza City. The clashes began when hundreds of Hamas policemen raided homes belonging to the Hilles clan in the city's Shajayieh neighborhood in a bid to arrest suspects in the bombing that killed five Hamas men nine days ago. Hamas has accused members of the clan, which has long been affiliated with Fatah, of being behind the explosion, which also killed a seven-year-old girl. Toward Saturday night, more than 180 clan members approached the border fence with Israel near the Nahal Oz fuel crossing, laid down their weapons and asked soldiers to allow them to cross over. Military sources said the group was allowed into Israel out of "humanitarian concerns" that they would be slaughtered by Hamas. Hamas policemen had surrounded the area where the clan lives for the past five days, demanding that the suspects be handed over. However, the clan refused to comply and instead chose to resist any attempt to enter their area. At least 12 of those who were wounded in Saturday's fighting were under the age of 15, said Khaled Radi, spokesman for the Hamas Health Ministry. Six of them were being treated for serious wounds in the intensive care unit of various hospitals, he added. Ihab al-Ghissin, spokesman for the Hamas Interior Ministry, said the massive security operation came after the Hilles clan refused to hand over the suspects wanted in connection with the fatal beachfront bombing. He said the Hamas security forces seized large amounts of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades and dynamite, during the crackdown on the clan. Ghissin added that at least 100 members of the clan were arrested for questioning, while others managed to flee the scene. Islam Shaheen, spokesman for the Hamas police force, said officers discovered a weapons factory that had been run by members of the clan and former Fatah security officers. He said the operation ended successfully when the Hamas security forces managed to "liberate" the area that had previously been under the clan's control. Col. Ron Ashrov, commander of the Northern Gaza Regional Brigade, said Saturday night that more than 180 Palestinians had been allowed into Israel, including 22 wounded, most with light injuries. Ashrov also said the shooting into Israel by Hamas constituted a breach of the Gaza cease-fire reached in June. The decision to allow the group to enter Israel was made in coordination with the political echelon. Ashrov said the fighting around 5 a.m. in the Shajayieh neighborhood of Gaza City. "We saw what was happening and stood on the side and did not get involved," he said. "At 5 p.m. a group tried approaching the fence [at Nahal Oz]. We saw that some of them were wounded and we decided to allow them to bring the wounded and evacuate them into Israel." The evacuation, Ashrov said, ended after 9 p.m. Most of the group consisted of men, but there were also women and children. During the evacuation into Israel, the group came under mortar and sniper fire from Hamas terrorists, he said. One of the leaders of the clan, Ahmed Hilles, was wounded as he entered Israel. Hilles, who is one of the most senior Fatah officials in the Gaza Strip, was apparently shot in the leg by IDF soldiers, a member of his family told reporters. He said the official was in moderate condition and was being treated in a hospital in Gaza City. Other Palestinian sources claimed he had crossed into Israel The IDF said that while it was facilitating the group's entrance to Israel, Hamas gunmen shot at the group. The IDF soldiers returned fire and it was possible that some of the Fatah men were wounded in the crossfire. "Today's security operation was directed against one of the biggest mafias in the Gaza Strip," a top Hamas official said. "Hamas won't allow any party or individual to establish a mini-state inside the Gaza Strip." The official said that the fall of the Hilles "stronghold" was a major victory in the war against those were trying to take the Gaza Strip back to the days of anarchy and lawlessness - a reference to the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah. A member of the clan told The Jerusalem Post by phone that the decision to surrender to Hamas was taken to spare the lives of women and children who were trapped in their homes. He accused the Hamas policemen of firing rockets at the clan's homes. "We left our homes to save the lives of women and children who came under attack by the bloody Hamas gangsters," he said. "Hamas has once again proven that it is a treacherous party that has a lot of Palestinian blood on its hands." PA and Fatah leaders in Ramallah expressed deep concern over the Hamas clampdown and urged Egypt and other Arab countries to intervene to stop the bloodletting. "What's happening in the Gaza Strip is a real massacre against innocent people," said Fatah official Fahmi Za'arir. "What's happening is part of a well-planned scheme to consolidate the divisions among the Palestinians." Samir Mashharawi, another senior Fatah official, accused Hamas of committing "war crimes against humanity." He added that the latest Hamas measures were intended to send a message to Fatah that the Islamist movement was not really interested in resolving the ongoing crisis in the PA territories. In Nablus, a group of gunmen belonging to Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, kidnapped Muhammad Ghazzal, a senior Hamas representative, and threatened to execute him unless Hamas halted its security operation against the Hilles clan. Ghazzal was later released unharmed. On Friday, Hamas's security forces arrested several leading Fatah figures in the Gaza Strip, including Zakariya al-Agha, a veteran member of the PLO executive committee. Hamas said the arrests were in response to the crackdown on its members by PA President Mahmoud Abbas's security forces in the West Bank. Some 200 Hamas members and supporters have been rounded up by the PA security forces since the beginning of the most recent crisis nine days ago. In an attempt to ease the tensions between the two parties, Abbas on Thursday ordered the release of all the Hamas detainees. However, Hamas said the move was insufficient because only a handful of detainees had been released. Y