Hamas urges end to clashes after attacks

GAZA CITY (AFP) — Hamas said it wanted to draw a line under a bout of internal Palestinian clashes Wednesday after its members attacked the homes of a security chief and the Gaza leader of the governing Fateh faction.
At least seven people were injured in the exchanges of fire with bodyguards after the attacks on the home of preventive security chief Rashid Abu Shbak and the head of Fateh in Gaza, Abdallah Franji, security and Hamas sources said.

While the security sources accused members of Hamas’ armed wing, the Izzeddine Qassam Brigades, of initiating the latest violence, Hamas said the shooting had been started by the security services. Both attacks happened around dawn in the Tal Hawa neighbourhood of southern Gaza City.

The exchanges had imperilled a tentative agreement reached overnight between members of Hamas and Fateh to stop targeting each other.

At least 22 people were wounded on Tuesday during clashes in the northern Gaza Strip between Hamas and members of either the security services or Fateh.

One of the main Hamas leaders in Gaza said it was imperative that the factions reserved their fire for their common enemy, Israel.

“The Hamas movement announces an end to all tension and threats in the street,” Ismail Haniya told reporters.

“We must conserve our weapons for use only against the occupation… Hamas is not the enemy of the PA (Palestinian Authority) and Fateh,” he added.

Haniya confirmed that the movement was working with Fateh leaders to end the tension and remove from the streets men from both factions.

Prisoner Affairs Minister Sufian Abu Zaydah, a senior member of Fateh who hails from northern Gaza, said both movements had agreed to “cease all activity that would increase tension between the two sides.”

“These painful incidents have produced no winners, only losers,” he said in the aftermath of the agreement.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia also argued that Israel was the only beneficiary of the internal divisions.

“I believe that the Israelis are pushing us towards an internal war. We must protect ourselves from each other and be aware of these dangers,” he said in the West Bank.

“We regret what has happened in Gaza. Hamas is not our enemy. It is the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority to protect all of us and there must be universal respect for the law.”

Hundreds of people demonstrated outside the Palestinian parliament in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Tuesday to call for national unity and an end to the security chaos in the occupied territories.

The long-running rivalry between Fateh and Hamas has been stoked recently by the Islamist movement’s refusal to accept an offer to join a national unity government.

The head of Hamas in its Gaza stronghold, Mahmoud Zahar, said in a recent interview that there had been a permanent breakdown of trust between his organisation and the Palestinian Authority.

The infighting has emphasised the collapse of the rule of law in the occupied territories which Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and Qureia have repeatedly pledged to tackle.

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