Hamas fighters rejoice in rout of their Fatah rivals

AGENCIES , GAZA

Sat, Jun 16, 2007 - Page 1

Hamas Islamist fighters and looters ransacked the blood-spattered Palestinian presidential compound in Gaza yesterday, rejoicing at the rout of their well-armed, secular rivals from the president's Fatah faction.

With Gaza effectively a new independent entity under Hamas control, Israel and the US were preparing to ease an embargo on the Palestinian Authority to channel funds to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah-run West Bank administration.

Abbas, who decreed a state of emergency on Thursday, was expected to name an emergency government later yesterday.

Ten Fatah security chiefs arrested by Hamas in Gaza and accused of launching a "coup" were given "amnesty" -- a possible sign Hamas leaders want to show restraint and statesmanship.

Despite firing in the air by Hamas fighters, who paraded captured Fatah vehicles and seized weapons, civilians hauled away fridges, satellite dishes, even doors.

"The battle was against those who implemented America's policy," its spokesman said on television.

Forces loyal to Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, the prime minister in the dismissed Palestinian government, seemed in complete control in the Gaza Strip. Fatah holds the larger West Bank.

The Israeli press yesterday screamed alarmist cries of chaos, hell and catastrophe.

"The catastrophic scenario has become reality: Hamas controls Gaza and Fatah the West Bank," the tabloid-style Maariv newspaper said.

Israel's top selling Yediot Aharonot, as well as Israeli public radio, referred to two Palestinian entities from now on -- Hamastan in Gaza and "Fatahland" in the West Bank.