GAZA (Reuters) – Hamas said on Monday it had punished 38 of its policemen for failing to prevent the killing of seven Palestinians during a rally staged by the rival Fatah faction last November in the Gaza Strip.
More than 100 people also were injured when fighting broke out between Hamas gunmen and rivals from Fatah during a ceremony to mark the third anniversary of the death of late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
An investigation into the incident launched by the Islamist group concluded that the Hamas men had “failed to implement and had violated orders”, Taher al-Nono, spokesman for the Islamist group, said at a news conference in Gaza on Monday.
Nono said the men had been handed punishments ranging from jail sentences to dismissal and demotion but he did not elaborate on their failings or give any identities.
He said the investigation found that Fatah gunmen had fired at the Hamas policemen from the rooftop of a pro-Fatah university building and also accused Fatah officials of refusing to cooperate with the investigation.
“Some of the wounded and witnesses said gunfire was directed at policemen from the roof of al-Zhar university,” Nono said.
A Fatah official in the occupied West Bank rejected the findings and accused Hamas of committing a “massacre”. Fatah organizers estimated that some 500,000 people — about a third of the population of the coastal territory — attended.
“Hamas had planned to attack the rally when they saw that nearly all Gaza was going to take part,” said Ziad Abu Ein.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called Hamas’s control of Gaza a “coup.” The Islamist group has defied calls to cede control of the impoverished territory to Abbas.
Separately, the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza said on Monday five Fatah members had been sentenced to up to three years in jail for plotting to kill Hamas Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh earlier this year.
Abbas’s advisers said the allegations were false and that the confessions had been extracted through torture.