Tevet 16, 5767
Senior Hamas official Mushir al-Masri blamed the
United States on Friday for attempting to promote a revolt against the
Hamas government, after U.S. documents showed that the Bush administration
will provide $86.4 million to strengthen security forces loyal to
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
"We demand that Abbas postpones this U.S. policy, which is tearing the Palestinian people apart," he said.
The new policy would expand U.S. involvement in Abbas' power struggle with Hamas.
Fighting between Abbas's Fatah faction and Hamas has surged since talks on forming a unity government collapsed and Abbas called for early parliamentary and presidential elections. Hamas accused Abbas of mounting a coup.
The U.S. money will be used to "assist the Palestinian Authority presidency in fulfilling PA commitments under the road map to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and establish law and order in the West Bank and Gaza," a U.S. government document obtained by Reuters said.
Speaking to reporters after Friday prayers in Gaza City, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh urged Palestinians not to let the violence spill over to the West Bank and to focus on fighting Israel. "Our fight is not an internal one, it's against the occupation," Haniyeh said.
Haniyeh's words were echoed by senior West Bank Fatah official Jibril Rajoub,speaking in the town of Bilin to supporters celebrating the movement's 42nd anniversary.
"Our battle with Hamas is not a battle of assassination, kidnapping or
revenge. Our battle with Hamas is a democratic moral battle," he told a crowd of about 100. "Our battle is with the occupation, not with each other."
Thousands of Palestinians carried bodies draped in yellow flags through pouring rain Friday in a funeral procession for seven Fatah men killed in the bloodiest single battle in weeks of factional fighting in the Gaza Strip.
Dozens of Fatah gunmen marched in the procession, firing in the air and
calling for vengeance against the rival Hamas group, which is locked in a
power struggle with Fatah over control of the Palestinian government.
Eighth Palestinian dies from wounds sustained in Thursday's attack
A Fatah security man on Friday died of wounds sustained in a battle against Hamas militants the previous day, medical officials said, raising the death toll to eight in the bloodiest single battle in weeks of factional fighting in the Gaza Strip.
The bodyguard had been wounded in a Thursday's assault by Hamas gunman on the home of a top Fatah security official. The official and six other bodyguards were killed in Thursday's fighting.
Hamas critic gunned-down in Gaza
A local religious leader who was a frequent critic of the Islamic militant group Hamas was killed in a drive-by shooting Friday as he walked out of a Gaza mosque, witnesses and medical officials said.
But Fatah accused Hamas. "Sheik Nasar was killed after he came out of the
mosque where he criticized Hamas after the crime committed by some of its
gunmen yesterday," the group said in a statement.
Hamas officials said they were investigating the killing. Nasar's assailants pulled up to him in a white car and speed away after the shooting, witnesses said.
Nasar, 50, was not openly affiliated with any political party, but he was a well-known figure in the refugee camp and often preached against Hamas.
Shortly before the shooting, Nasar had criticized Thursday's bloody attack on the home of Col. Mohammed Ghayeb, a top Fatah official in northern Gaza, witnesses said.
In his sermon, Nasar warned that God would punish the killers of Ghayeb and his bodyguards. He also said God would punish Palestinian rulers for not preventing the attack, said Jibril Awwar, a friend of the preacher who was lightly wounded in the shooting.
Nasar did not mention Hamas by name, but Awwar said the preacher's message was aimed at the group, which controls most of the Palestinian government.
Haniyeh, Abbas agree to defuse tensions
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said on Friday he and Abbas had agreed at emergency talks to keep gunmen from their rival Hamas and Fatah factions off Gaza's streets after eight people were killed and 18 were wounded.
"We have expressed our regret and sorrow for these incidents that do not reflect our struggle," Haniyeh told reporters at Abbas's office at the end of their first meeting in two months.
Haniyeh said he and Abbas agreed to "withdraw all gunmen from the streets and deploy police forces to keep law and order."
Abbas made no public comment after the session, but a diplomat who attended the talks and declined to be identified confirmed an agreement had been reached.
Similar pacts in the past have been shattered swiftly by violence and Gazans said they feared another eruption of bloodshed later in the day when Thursday's dead are buried.
On Thursday, a senior Palestinian security officer allied with Fatah was killed when Hamas militants laid siege to his house in the northern Gaza Strip, engaging in a protracted gun battle with his guards, and then attacked it with grenades and a dozen rockets, Palestinian officials and witnesses said.
The officer, Colonel Mohammed Ghayeb, was on the phone to Palestine TV just moments before his death and appealed for help as his house came under attack. Ghayeb's wife was seriously wounded in the attack, in which Hamas fired assault rifles and rockets at the building.
"They are killers," he said of the Hamas gunmen. "They are targeting the house, children are dying, they are bleeding. For God's sake, send an ambulance, we want an ambulance, somebody move."
The battle outside the house raged for much of the day and killed four of Ghayeb's guards and a Hamas gunman. About three dozen people, including eight children, were also wounded.
Ghayeb was the chief of the Preventive Security Service in northern Gaza, and his killing was expected to trigger revenge attacks by the men under his command.
During the standoff outside Ghayeb's home in Beit Lahiya, dozens of women rushed into the streets in protest, chanting "Spare the bullets, shame, shame."
One resident, Amina Abu Saher, told the local Al Quds radio station that it was difficult for her to see Palestinians fighting each other and said she and the other women were determined to stop the internal fighting.
Haniyeh called for calm in the wake of the renewed internal violence. "These clashes must stop, this bloodshed must end. Let all of you love one another, let's resolve differences through dialogue and not with weapons," Haniyeh told reporters after returning from making the Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. "Weapons must only be directed against the Israeli occupation," he added.
Also Thursday, unknown gunmen fired on mourners at a funeral for three security officers loyal to Abbas who were among those killed the day before.
Fatah sources and medical officials said two mourners were wounded during the funeral march in central Gaza when gunmen shot at the procession.
A senior Hamas member was also kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in Gaza City, the Islamists said.