A group of masked gunmen claiming to be members of al-Qaida on Tuesday attacked an empty seaside tourist resort in Gaza City with explosive devices and automatic weapons, saying they wanted to send a warning to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah legislator Muhammad Dahlan. According to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the Oasis Resort is owned by Dahlan, although its registered owner is listed as Yussef Barakeh, a resident of Bani Suheila near Khan Yunis.
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At least 70 percent of the resort was destroyed in the predawn attack, said Bashir Thari, the local manager. "About 40 masked gunmen participated in the attack after they overpowered the three guards."
He said the attackers identified themselves as members of al-Qaida and asked him to deliver a message to Dahlan to the effect that "al-Qaida has arrived in the Gaza Strip."
The resort, the biggest tourist site in the Gaza Strip, consists of several cottages and wedding halls, as well as a hotel and restaurant.
PA security officials said they did not rule out the possibility that the attackers were Hamas members.
"We don't believe that al-Qaida is operating in the Gaza Strip," said one official. "This attack carries the fingerprints of Hamas."
In a separate development, Palestinian journalists went on a one-day strike Tuesday to protest Monday night's attack on the offices of the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV satellite station in Gaza City.
A powerful explosion ripped through the TV station's offices on the 11th floor of the Shurouq Tower in the Rimal neighborhood, causing extensive damage. No one was hurt.
The offices were empty at the time of the explosion because the employees have not been reporting to work for the past week following death threats from Hamas. The threats came after Al-Arabiya aired a tape of PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in which he is heard making an offensive remark against God.
Earlier this week, Hamas strongly condemned the station and accused it of trying to defame Haniyeh by taking his remarks out of context.
Al-Arabiya correspondent Seif Eddin Shahin said he and his colleagues received many death threats over the past week.
Hundreds of Palestinian journalists participated in a sit-in strike in Gaza City Tuesday to protest increased attacks on their colleagues and news organizations in the Palestinian territories. The protest was organized by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, which issued a statement condemning the "war against the freedom of expression."
Riham Abdul Karim, bureau chief of Al-Arabiya in the Gaza Strip, held the Hamas-led government responsible for the attack.
She said Haniyeh knew about the threats against the station, but failed to take measures to prevent the attack. She added that Al-Arabiya tried to settle the dispute with Hamas "peacefully," but to no avail.
Saleem al-Hindi, a reporter with the Gaza-based Voice of Laborers radio stations, described the attack as an organized crime against the media. He noted that his station was also attacked by Hamas last November.
Hamas officials strongly denied responsibility for the attack, claiming that it could have been carried out by Fatah gunmen to drive a wedge between the station and Hamas.