8 Palestinians die in clashes

Factional fighting underscores political deadlock

January 27, 2007|By Richard Boudreaux and Rushdi abu Alouf | Richard Boudreaux and Rushdi abu Alouf,Los Angeles Times

JABALIYA, GAZA STRIP -- Eight Palestinians died yesterday in a resurgence of factional violence that overshadowed a rally marking the one-year anniversary of Hamas' victory in parliamentary elections.

The clashes underscored the political deadlock that has sunk the Palestinians deeper into poverty over the past year and complicated efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The fighting also disrupted talks between Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' rival Fatah movement on a proposed power-sharing arrangement.

Hamas' upset win on Jan. 25 last year gave the militant Islamic group control of the government, ending Fatah's long dominance. Because Hamas is sworn to Israel's destruction, its takeover prompted the United States, other Western countries and Israel to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas, who had been elected president in 2005, has been trying for months to cut a deal with Hamas that would install a coalition Cabinet supportive of his efforts to negotiate peace with Israel and end the crippling sanctions. Those talks have broken down several times amid sporadic factional fighting that has left more than 60 dead since May.

Yesterday's violence, which left at least 28 people wounded, broke two weeks of relative calm.

Two Hamas militiamen leaving a mosque in Gaza City were killed in a shootout with Fatah policemen at their headquarters a block away.

Most of the violence occurred in this northern Gaza town and its refugee camp.

It began when a roadside bomb hit a jeep of the Hamas-led Interior Ministry's police force late Thursday, wounding seven policemen and five civilians. Two of the wounded policemen died in a hospital yesterday.

Before dawn yesterday, Hamas policemen surrounded the home of a Fatah militiaman suspected of having planned the bombing and killed him. A police spokesman said the militiaman had fired at the police as they went to arrest him.

Fatah officials called his death an execution.

Later in the day, Hamas forces in Jabaliya besieged the home of a senior officer in the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Fatah's militia, killing two unarmed civilians nearby, including a 16-year-old boy.

In response, the Fatah militia said it seized 24 Hamas hostages in Gaza and the West Bank and would kill them if the besieged officer in Jabaliya, Mansour Shalayel, was harmed. Several of the hostages were paraded before reporters in the West Bank city of Nablus.

Also killed yesterday was a Hamas activist shot by a rooftop sniper as he rode through Jabaliya in a loudspeaker van summoning people to a rally marking the election's anniversary.

Hamas had scheduled the rally for Gaza City but moved it to Jabaliya as a protest against Fatah's alleged role in the latest violence.

Richard Boudreaux and Rushdi abu Alouf write for the Los Angeles Times.

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