Six killed as Fatah clash with Hamas police in Gaza

Gaza City, Jan 1 (DPA) Six Palestinians were killed and 30 wounded as hundreds of supporters of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organisation clashed with police from the Hamas movement as they celebrated Fatah’s anniversary in the southern Gaza Strip.

Two of the dead were Hamas policemen, two came from the Fatah ranks and two were bystanders, Mo’aweya Hassanein, chief of emergency in the ministry of health, said.

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Fatah accused Hamas of being responsible for the fatalities Monday night. In addition, they said, 30 people were injured – 15 of them were beaten up by Hamas police forces in southern Gaza City.

Meanwhile, Hamas police forces arrested top Fatah leader Ibrahim Abu al-Najja from his home in Gaza City, Abu al-Najja’s wife told reporters. Abu al-Najja was accused by Hamas of inciting Fatah supporters to violence.

Witnesses also said that Fatah supporters celebrated in Gaza City, where sounds of fireworks explosions and its flashes could be clearly seen covering the sky.

Abbas meanwhile renewed his call for early elections as a way out of the Palestinian political stalemate that arose last summer after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, leaving political control over the two Palestinian territories divided.

In a nationally televised address from his Ramallah headquarters in the West Bank, marking the 43rd anniversary of Fatah’s founding, Abbas called for “opening a new page with a credible agreement built on partnership to live in our homeland and to struggle for its liberation”.

“I renew my call for early elections as a way out of the hell imposed on us,” he said.

But the Hamas movement rejected the Abbas initiative, and said in a statement faxed to reporters that Abbas’ call for dialogue “hasn’t changed, as he called for a conditioned dialogue”.

Abbas attacked Hamas, saying it “spread lies everywhere and they use the money, which they get illegally, to finance their military coup force and to buy loyalties from those they appoint in decision-making positions”.

“I call on those in the Hamas movement, who led the illegal military coup against the legitimate Palestinian leadership in Gaza, to open a new page and a new era of ties based on dialogue,” he said.

“I would say that any coup or military rebellion anywhere in the world has ended, whatever the time it takes, therefore I call on the leaders of the coup to start a dialogue, dialogue, dialogue,” Abbas said.

Tensions between the two sides, high after Hamas defeated Fatah in the January 2006 elections, ruptured after the Islamist movement routed pro-Abbas security forces in savage fighting in mid-June and seized control of the salient.

Abbas responded by dismissing the Hamas-led unity government and appointing a new West Bank-based administration, which has yet to be ratified by the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council.

Monday night’s clashes began as thousands of Fatah supporters took to the streets, chanting slogans and waving the yellow flags of the movement.

Witnesses said Hamas police officers opened fire on the crowd and beat up dozens of them.

Hamas had earlier said Fatah supporters would not be allowed to celebrate the anniversary, but Fatah called on its supporters to light beacons on their rooftops.