Hamas officials on Monday accused Fatah militiamen of torching the car of a Hamas minister and shooting at the aide of another minister. The charges came despite efforts by representatives of the two parties to ease tensions and to end internecine fighting, especially in the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Hamas announced on Monday that it was seriously considering establishing its own satellite TV station.
"We are now studying this issue," said Hamas's Information Minister Yusef al-Rizka. "There is a need for a Hamas TV station because our media is now controlled by Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] and his Fatah party."
The Hamas officials demanded that the "national dialogue" committee, which includes representatives of various factions, move its discussions from Ramallah to the Gaza Strip, where Hamas has its own security force.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said it was inconceivable that the important talks be held in Ramalah at a time when most of the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not permitted to enter the West Bank.
But some Hamas officials told The Jerusalem Post
that recent attacks on their representatives in the West Bank also motivated their demand to move the talks to the Gaza Strip. The officials pointed out that two Hamas ministers had been targeted by Fatah gunmen in the West Bank over the past two weeks.
Last week, gunmen in Tulkarm opened fire at the car of Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Shaer. The minister escaped unharmed.
On Sunday morning, arsonists set fire to the car of Wasfi Kabaha, minister for prisoners affairs , while it was parked outside his home in Jenin.
Unidentified gunmen also shot and seriously wounded Taisir Salouha, a top aide to the minister of transportation, on Monday as he was walking along a street in Gaza City.
"We have no doubt that Fatah gunmen were behind all these attacks," a senior Hamas representative in Ramallah told the Post
. "These attacks are in the context of a wider conspiracy designed to intimidate Hamas ministers and undermine the government."
Kabaha condemned those who torched his vehicle as "Israeli agents," but stopped short of mentioning Fatah by name. He said the attack was part of an Israeli and US-engineered drive to bring down the Hamas cabinet and to create confusion and dissension among the Palestinians.
"This attack won't change our policy and we won't be deterred," he said.
Kabaha accused Fatah officials of inciting against him and his ministry by falsely claiming that he was discriminating against Fatah prisoners held in Israeli jails. A number of Fatah officials recently claimed that the Ministry for Prisoners Affairs had paid monthly salaries only to the families of Hamas prisoners.
Hamas ministers living in the West Bank are forced to drive their private cars because of the severe financial crisis in the PA. Some of them even use public transportation to arrive at work in Ramallah. In addition, the Hamas ministers in the West Bank do not enjoy the protection of the PA security forces, which consist largely of Fatah members.
In contrast, former Fatah officials continue to drive in PA-supplied jeeps and luxurious vehicles together with their bodyguards and assistants. Many Fatah leaders also continue to hold IDF-issued VIP passes that allow them to move around freely and to drive through checkpoints without having to wait in line.