Mon, Jul 28, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Clashes in Gaza wound six

AFP , GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP

Clashes broke out in Gaza City early yesterday, wounding at least six people, as Hamas-run security forces pressed a territory-wide crackdown on rival Palestinian factions after a deadly bombing.

The fighting erupted overnight when Hamas-run police moved to arrest members of the Army of Islam, a small, shadowy militant group believed to be linked to al-Qaeda.

“Hamas forces came to arrest us early this morning, just after midnight,” a member of the group who asked not to be named told reporters. “There was fighting for several hours, with rocket-propelled grenades, explosions and gunfire, but they did not arrest anyone.”

At least six people were wounded in the clashes, a medic at Gaza’s main al-Shifa hospital said.

Witnesses said they heard heavy exchanges of gunfire and explosions in which several people were wounded, including militants and police, but the medic, who asked not to be named, declined to give details.

The clashes came as Hamas cracked down on rival movements suspected of planting a bomb on Friday night that killed five senior militants and a five-year-old girl, the deadliest Palestinian attack on the group since it seized power in the Gaza Strip last June.

Hamas on Saturday blamed the attack at a Gaza City beach club popular with its members on Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas’ Fatah party, which it accused of trying to undermine its rule.

Since the explosion, Hamas-run forces have arrested more than 200 people, security officials said, most of them members of Fatah, which was largely expelled from the Strip when Hamas took over.

Security forces have also raided more than 40 offices, sports clubs and charities, most of them linked to Fatah, confiscating computers and documents, the independent Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported.

Fatah has denied any involvement in the blast and said the attack was part of an internal Hamas conflict.

The two main Palestinian factions have been bitterly divided since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, but the factional clashes that rocked the impoverished territory before it seized power had mostly ceased.

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