Fatah says it is suspending participation in the three-month old unity government until street battles in Gaza end. The announcement on Tuesday night came at the end of one of the bloodiest days of factional fighting in the Gaza Strip. The toll in the past 24 hours reached 27, with scores wounded.Earlier in the day, fighters from the armed wing of Hamas had stormed two compounds belonging to forces loyal to the Palestinian president. The raids came after the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades demanded that all Preventive Security Forces abandon their positions or face attack.
Mahmoud Abbas, the president,Â said thatÂ the violence was part of a Hamas-ledÂ coup attempt. After the closed-doors meeting, Fatah’s central committee said in a statement: “The committee has decided that [Fatah] ministers will no longer participateÂ in the government if the shootingÂ does not stop.”
Ismail Haniya, the prime minister and Hamas member, said a state of emergency should be declared and that talks between the two factions should resume.
Abbas’s office said in a statement: “All information and events on the ground in Gaza confirm that there is a group in the Hamas movement, including political and military leaders that are planning to carry out a coup against the Palestinian legitimacy.
“The Palestinian presidency is worried about this plot … which is pushing the homeland into an ugly civil war.” “The situation does not seem to be reaching a solution, it seems to be heading further and further away from political dialogue.”
A rocket-propelled grenade was fired into the Palestinian prime minister’s house on Tuesday morning. Haniya, who is a member of the Hamas movement, was unharmed. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, accused Fatah of firing the rocket in an attempt to assassinate Haniya and vowed punishment “without mercy” of the perpetrators.
“Hamas has decided to punish the attackers and the killers and it will not be reluctant to punish them without any mercy.” It was the second time since Monday that Haniya had come under attack, a shooting at his office on Monday interrupted a cabinet meeting but caused no casualties.
Later, an aide to HaniyaÂ said that Hamas’sÂ rivals were trying to bring down the unity government which was formed in March. “Certain parties, collaborating with parties hostile to our people, have tried to bring down the government of national unity by force,” the official said.
Witnesses said that a large security compound in Gaza City was attacked just minutes after the Hamas deadline expired. Heavy gunfire and explosions were heard in the area, but there was no immediate word on casualties. A second headquarters in Jabiliya, in the north of the strip, was also besieged.
Hamas-affiliated radio stations said fighters had taken control of security installations in northern and central Gaza, as well as the southern town of Khan Yunis.
Earlier, the presidential compound in Gaza City also came under attack with mortar shells, an officer in Abbas’s presidential guard said. AÂ gun battle broke out between armed supporters of Hamas and Fatah at a hospital in Khan Yunis.
Hamas fighters reportedly controlled the roof of the European Hospital and Fatah-alliedÂ fightersÂ took up positions nearby. “[Medical officials] are appealing to gunmen from all sides to steer away from medical services, institutions and ambulances and allow them to do their work,” Odeh said.
The recent clashes have been particularly brutal with reports of fighters dropping rivals to their deathsÂ from high-rise buildings and bodies being mutilated.Â Officials of both factions have seen their homes attacked and in many cases set on fire.
Samih al-Madhoun, a senior figure in the Fatah-linked al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, said after his house was attacked: “If they’ve burnt my house, I have burnt 20 Hamas houses last night.”
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“A house for a house and blood for blood … I swear to God that I will kill every member of Hamas, be they civilian or military. I will kill them all,” he told a Fatah radio station.
The factional fighting spread to the West Bank asÂ Saidi Tamimi, deputy transport minister and a Hamas member, wasÂ seized by armedÂ men who stormed into his department and forced him into a vehicle, security officials said.Â
Also inÂ Ramallah, presidential guards stormedÂ Hamas-controlled al-Aqsa TelevisionÂ and seized equipment.Â Three staff were detained, the station said.