Two Hamas militants and three Palestinian police died in gunfights in the West Bank when police raided Qalqilya town to arrest Hamas members, according to Palestinian officials. A bystander was also killed.
REUTERS - Three Palestinian policemen, two Hamas gunmen and a bystander were killed in a clash in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Sunday, Palestinian security officials said.
The incident was among the bloodiest internal Palestinian confrontations since U.S.-backed President Mahmoud Abbas pressed a security drive and revived peace talks with Israel after breaking with Hamas over its 2007 takeover of the Gaza Strip.
Security officials said police raided Qalqilya town before dawn to arrest Hamas members, touching off gunfights. They named the dead Hamas men as Mohammad Yasin and Mohammad Samman. The identities of the dead policemen were not immediately given.
The owner of a home in which Hamas gunmen had been hiding was also killed, Palestinian security officials said.
Witnesses said several Hamas gunmen holed up in buildings had ignored calls to surrender.
In Gaza, Hamas denounced Abbas’s forces as “Zionist agents”.
“Their crackdown against and pursuit of wanted men with the help of the enemy (Israel) lays down the foundation for resistance” by Hamas, the group said in a statement.
The incident looked likely to widen a rift between Abbas’s secular Fatah faction and Islamist Hamas, which sees itself as locked in a holy war with the Jewish state.
U.S. President Barack Obama met Abbas in the White House last week and described ensuring Israel’s security as key to advancing peace. The Obama administration has also stirred concern in Israel’s right-leaning government by demanding a halt to the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Hamas says Abbas’s Fatah-dominated security forces are pursuing a politically motivated crackdown on its activists. Fatah has lodged similar complaints against the Hamas administration in Gaza.
Hamas said 22 of its members were arrested in the West Bank on Saturday. A Palestinian security official said the detainees were involved in hiding weapons, money laundering and incitement to violence.
Egypt, which has been trying to broker inter-factional reconciliation, has set a July 7 deadline for a deal to bridge their divisions.
Date created : 2009-05-31