Fatah, Hamas tensions rise

2009-05-31 16:26

Ramallah - A shootout between Palestinian Authority security forces and an armed cadre in the West Bank city of Qalqilya left six people dead on Sunday morning, and further increased tensions between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, and the Islamic Hamas organisation.

Three of the dead were members of the security forces, two were Hamas gunmen and the sixth was owner of the building where the fighting took place, Adnan Dmeiri, a spokesperson for the security forces said.

Police imposed a curfew

He said the police surrounded a building in the city and called on the men inside, believed to be members of the Hamas armed wing, to surrender.

Police imposed a curfew on the city and ordered people to remain in their homes.

"The security forces attack in Qalqilya is real case of high treason," Hamas said in a statement issued after the shootout.

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said in a separate comment that the Islamist movement held Abbas responsible "for the assassination of the holy fighters and his role in uprooting the resistance."

Barhoum added that Hamas did not absolve Fatah officials from blame, since they carried out Abbas' orders.

"This serious crime continues the tasks of the Zionist occupation (Israel) against our Palestinian people," Barhoum said.

Relations between Hamas and Fatah have been volatile since the former defeated the latter in the 2006 legislative elections.

Routed security forces loyal to Abbas

Although the two movements agreed to sit in a short-lived national unity government in early 2007, the tensions between them spilled over into violence in June that year, when Hamas gunmen in the Gaza Strip routed security forces loyal to Abbas and seized security control of the salient.

Attempts to reconcile the two movements since then have so far been fruitless and each movement accuses the other of cracking down on its members in the territories it controls - Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Fatah in the West Bank.

Hamas' armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, accused Abbas security forces of pursuing its militants for several days, saying that "these forces arrested dozens of Hamas members and supporters within the last two weeks."

"What happened in Qalqilya is a preparation for a new era that aims at getting rid of our militants, which will lead to igniting an explosion in the West Bank (against Abbas' security forces)," the group said in a statement.