Sun, May 13, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Hamas gunmen open fire on rival Fatah, injuring six

AP , GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP

Hamas gunmen opened fire on Friday on forces of the rival Fatah, injuring at least six people throughout the Gaza Strip, in another setback to a new security plan aimed at halting the wave of violence plaguing the chaotic coastal area.

With 10 Palestinians wounded over a two-day period, it was the worst factional fighting since the formation of the Hamas-Fatah unity government nearly two months ago.

Despite the growing tensions, it is unlikely the coalition would break apart soon, since neither party can govern alone or is eager to go to elections.

Later on Friday, six members of Hamas' militia were wounded in a family feud that appeared unrelated to its rivalry with Fatah, Palestinian security officials said.

The factional tensions flared again on Thursday, after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered the deployment of about 3,000 police in Gaza City. The troops took up positions at main intersections and government buildings.

Hamas was upset that Abbas, the Fatah leader, has not coordinated the new deployment with them. On Friday, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh canceled a scheduled meeting with senior security commanders, in an apparent show of displeasure.

Despite the renewed tensions, Abbas was to leave Gaza for the West Bank on Saturday.

After many months of clashes between the sides some Gazans are skeptical that the new police deployment would stem the unrest.

"They look good. But can they do anything? I doubt that very much," Badar Salim, 45, a Gaza City merchant said. "I hope this is something real, not just a show for the media."

The plan includes a joint operations room to be staffed by members of various security forces as well a joint security unit, said Ghazi Hamad, Haniyeh's spokesman. Hamad also said security commanders would hold meetings with leaders of Gaza's political parties and militant groups to maintain calm.

"Lawlessness and chaos have become very dangerous in Gaza, and all the participants are determined to end the chaos and restore security," he said.

Friday's clashes began before dawn, when a minibus filled with Hamas gunmen opened fire at a Fatah security force manning a new roadblock. Palestinian medical officials said at least four people were wounded in this exchange.

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