Hamas police clash with Salafists in Gaza
Gaza City - Hamas policeman clashed with members of a Salafist group in the central Gaza Strip on Tuesday, as they raided a house during a search for suspects in the murder of an Italian activist.
Witnesses at the scene said Hamas security officials were trying to raid a house believed to contain two suspects in the murder of Vittorio Arrigoni, who was found hanged last Friday hours after his kidnapping.
Local residents said Bilal al-Omary and Abdul-Rahman al-Birziti, two of three suspects Hamas has said it is hunting, were believed to be inside the house in the Nuseirat area in central Gaza.
As police neared the house, a gun battle broke out, witnesses said, adding that one person was believed to have been wounded, though a spokesperson for the Hamas health ministry said he had no details on injuries in the clashes.
The Hamas-run interior ministry announced that part of the central Gaza Strip had been sealed off as their security forces searched for "wanted men", but gave no additional information.
AFP reporters who tried to approach the scene were held back by Hamas policemen, but gunfire could be heard coming from the direction of the house in the central Nuseirat neighbourhood of Gaza.
Hamas officials have said they have arrested two people in connection with Arrigoni's murder and named three suspects who remain at large - Omary, Birziti, who is Jordanian, and Mohammed al-Salfiti, a Hamas policeman.
Salafists are Muslims who espouse an austere form of Sunni Islam that seeks a return to practices common in the early days of the faith.