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Hamas officers killed in Gaza clashes

Latest update : 2008-08-03

Three Hamas security officers and six members of their rival pro-Fatah clan were killed on Saturday as violence flared on the Gaza Strip, leaving at least 90 wounded.

GAZA, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Three Hamas policemen and six
pro-Fatah gunmen were killed in the Gaza Strip on Saturday in
the deadliest confrontation between the rival factions since
Hamas seized control of the coastal territory a year ago.

The fighting erupted when Hamas gunmen surrounded the
Shejaia suburb in Gaza City to arrest 11 suspects, who the
Islamist group believes were behind bombings that killed five
Hamas gunmen and a girl last Friday.

Members of the Helles clan, affiliated with Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, surrendered to Hamas
after clashes that also wounded five Hamas policemen and 90
other people, including 16 children, a Hamas official said.

Clan leader Ahmed Helles and 179 of his men escaped to the
border with Israel. An Israeli army spokesman said soldiers
allowed all 180 men to cross the border and some were evacuated
to Israeli hospitals for treatment.

Hamas Interior Minister Saeed Seyam, speaking in Gaza City,
said police arrested dozens of gunmen, including four of the 11
men Hamas believes were behind the bombings, and confiscated
large quantities of arms and explosives.

"We can confirm that Fatah are implicated in the bombings,"
Seyam said, accusing pro-Fatah cells of inciting violence
against the Hamas government. Fatah denies the charges.

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA said Abbas had
telephoned Ahmed Helles, a senior Fatah representative in the
Gaza Strip, to express solidarity. Abbas called Hamas's campaign
"unacceptable" and a blow to his call for national dialogue.

The violence could hamper Egyptian efforts to reconcile
Fatah with Hamas. Tension between the two spiked last year after
Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from pro-Abbas forces.

Ehab al-Ghsain, a spokesman for Hamas's Interior Ministry,
said: "The Helles family has become a military force and its
members have been attacking, abducting and even killing people.
We must put an end to their attacks on innocent citizens."


Last week's blasts touched off tit-for-tat crackdowns by
Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Fatah in the West Bank. Hundreds of
Palestinians have since been arrested.

On Thursday, Abbas ordered his Fatah-dominated security
forces to release all pro-Hamas detainees in the West Bank.
Twenty were released on Friday but dozens remained in custody, a
security official in the occupied West Bank said.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, Fatah militants kidnapped
Mohammed Ghazal, a Hamas official, but released him hours later.

Hamas said it had released more than half the hundreds of
Fatah activists in its custody, including Ibrahim Abu an-Naja
and nine other Fatah officials.

As part of its crackdown, Hamas closed down a radio station
run by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP),
a militant group allied with Fatah.

An official said the station's broadcasts were inciting
violence against Hamas's forces and government in the Gaza
Strip. The PFLP confirmed the station had stopped broadcasting.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, pro-Abbas forces clashed
with supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist group whose goal
is to establish a pan-national Muslim state including the
Palestinian territories and Israel.

Witnesses said policemen were trying to prevent the group
from holding an "illegal gathering" at a school in the city. The
Palestinian Authority refused the group permission to hold the
gathering, citing its links to Hamas.

Date created : 2008-08-02