Hamas militants overran the main security headquarters of the Fatah organization in the Gaza Strip on Thursday and targeted remaining key facilities under Fatah control.VOA’s Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem at least 25 people were killed in Thursday’s fighting, bringing to nearly 100 the number of people killed since fighting between the two factions began six days ago.
Hamas militants seized control of the headquarters of the Fatah Preventive Security Force after a quick battle, and according to witnesses, summarily executed a number of Fatah militants after they surrendered.
A spokesman for Hamas called the victory a second liberation of the Gaza Strip, referring to Israel’s withdrawal from the territory in 2005.
Hamas militants warned Fatah gunmen to surrender their remaining positions, including President Mahmoud Abbas’ Gaza headquarters building.
Mr. Abbas, who heads Fatah, says he is reviewing suggestions that he pull Fatah out of the Palestinian unity government or declare a state of emergency, something recommended by the Palestine Liberation Organization, an umbrella group allied with the Palestinian president.
Yasser Abed Rabo, the deputy head of the PLO, warned Thursday that if Hamas does take over in Gaza, Palestinian democracy will suffer.
“What they are doing now is they are trying to solidify their grip over Gaza by all means, including military means,” he said. “They do not believe in the democratic process where you can change the government every four years. They believe it is a divine mission granted to them, and they should seize the opportunity.”
Since fighting dramatically escalated on Wednesday, Fatah forces have been largely routed by more disciplined Hamas militants.
Reporter Mohammed Dawass in Gaza says unlike Hamas, Fatah was unprepared for an all-out conflict.
“They [Fatah] were not really preparing themselves like Hamas did,” said Dawass. “Hamas has been preparing itself for a long time. Especially after the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, they [Hamas] managed to get weapons from across the borders. Fatah did not really expect this to happen actually.”
Meanwhile, over the past few days, Fatah security forces have been rounding up Hamas militants in the West Bank.
Fatah and Hamas have been locked in a bitter power struggle since Hamas won legislative elections last year. Hamas leaders say their security forces in Gaza are dominant and should be integrated into the Palestinian police, a move rejected by Mr. Abbas. They also say Fatah forces are behind a crime wave of kidnappings and violence.
If Hamas does take complete control of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian territories will be effectively split between Hamas and Fatah, which largely controls the West Bank. That would mean the end of a unified Palestinian governing authority and a probable end to any attempt to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.