Nine killed, 90 wounded in Hamas-Fatah clashes in Gaza

Aug. 2, 2008
Nine Palestinians were killed - including members of Hamas's security forces - 
and more than 90 were wounded in fighting that erupted Saturday between Hamas 
and Fatah members in Gaza City. 

The clashes began when hundreds of Hamas policemen raided homes belonging to 
the Hilles clan in the city's Shajayieh neighborhood in a bid to arrest 
suspects in the bombing that killed five Hamas men nine days ago. 

Hamas has accused members of the clan, which has long been affiliated with 
Fatah, of being behind the explosion, which also killed a seven-year-old girl. 

Toward Saturday night, more than 180 clan members approached the border fence 
with Israel near the Nahal Oz fuel crossing, laid down their weapons and asked 
soldiers to allow them to cross over. Military sources said the group was 
allowed into Israel out of "humanitarian concerns" that they would be 
slaughtered by Hamas. 

Hamas policemen had surrounded the area where the clan lives for the past five 
days, demanding that the suspects be handed over. However, the clan refused to 
comply and instead chose to resist any attempt to enter their area. 

At least 12 of those who were wounded in Saturday's fighting were under the age 
of 15, said Khaled Radi, spokesman for the Hamas Health Ministry. Six of them 
were being treated for serious wounds in the intensive care unit of various 
hospitals, he added. 

Ihab al-Ghissin, spokesman for the Hamas Interior Ministry, said the massive 
security operation came after the Hilles clan refused to hand over the suspects 
wanted in connection with the fatal beachfront bombing. 

He said the Hamas security forces seized large amounts of weapons, including 
rocket-propelled grenades and dynamite, during the crackdown on the clan. 

Ghissin added that at least 100 members of the clan were arrested for 
questioning, while others managed to flee the scene. 

Islam Shaheen, spokesman for the Hamas police force, said officers discovered a 
weapons factory that had been run by members of the clan and former Fatah 
security officers. He said the operation ended successfully when the Hamas 
security forces managed to "liberate" the area that had previously been under 
the clan's control. 

Col. Ron Ashrov, commander of the Northern Gaza Regional Brigade, said Saturday 
night that more than 180 Palestinians had been allowed into Israel, including 
22 wounded, most with light injuries. 

Ashrov also said the shooting into Israel by Hamas constituted a breach of the 
Gaza cease-fire reached in June. 

The decision to allow the group to enter Israel was made in coordination with 
the political echelon. 

Ashrov said the fighting around 5 a.m. in the Shajayieh neighborhood of Gaza 

"We saw what was happening and stood on the side and did not get involved," he 
said. "At 5 p.m. a group tried approaching the fence [at Nahal Oz]. We saw that 
some of them were wounded and we decided to allow them to bring the wounded and 
evacuate them into Israel." 

The evacuation, Ashrov said, ended after 9 p.m. Most of the group consisted of 
men, but there were also women and children. During the evacuation into Israel, 
the group came under mortar and sniper fire from Hamas terrorists, he said. 

One of the leaders of the clan, Ahmed Hilles, was wounded as he entered Israel. 

Hilles, who is one of the most senior Fatah officials in the Gaza Strip, was 
apparently shot in the leg by IDF soldiers, a member of his family told 
reporters. He said the official was in moderate condition and was being treated 
in a hospital in Gaza City. Other Palestinian sources claimed he had crossed 
into Israel 

The IDF said that while it was facilitating the group's entrance to Israel, 
Hamas gunmen shot at the group. The IDF soldiers returned fire and it was 
possible that some of the Fatah men were wounded in the crossfire. 

"Today's security operation was directed against one of the biggest mafias in 
the Gaza Strip," a top Hamas official said. "Hamas won't allow any party or 
individual to establish a mini-state inside the Gaza Strip." 

The official said that the fall of the Hilles "stronghold" was a major victory 
in the war against those were trying to take the Gaza Strip back to the days of 
anarchy and lawlessness - a reference to the Palestinian Authority leadership 
in Ramallah. 

A member of the clan told The Jerusalem Post by phone that the decision to 
surrender to Hamas was taken to spare the lives of women and children who were 
trapped in their homes. 

He accused the Hamas policemen of firing rockets at the clan's homes. 

"We left our homes to save the lives of women and children who came under 
attack by the bloody Hamas gangsters," he said. "Hamas has once again proven 
that it is a treacherous party that has a lot of Palestinian blood on its 

PA and Fatah leaders in Ramallah expressed deep concern over the Hamas 
clampdown and urged Egypt and other Arab countries to intervene to stop the 

"What's happening in the Gaza Strip is a real massacre against innocent 
people," said Fatah official Fahmi Za'arir. "What's happening is part of a 
well-planned scheme to consolidate the divisions among the Palestinians." 

Samir Mashharawi, another senior Fatah official, accused Hamas of committing 
"war crimes against humanity." He added that the latest Hamas measures were 
intended to send a message to Fatah that the Islamist movement was not really 
interested in resolving the ongoing crisis in the PA territories. 

In Nablus, a group of gunmen belonging to Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs 
Brigades, kidnapped Muhammad Ghazzal, a senior Hamas representative, and 
threatened to execute him unless Hamas halted its security operation against 
the Hilles clan. Ghazzal was later released unharmed. 

On Friday, Hamas's security forces arrested several leading Fatah figures in 
the Gaza Strip, including Zakariya al-Agha, a veteran member of the PLO 
executive committee. 

Hamas said the arrests were in response to the crackdown on its members by PA 
President Mahmoud Abbas's security forces in the West Bank. Some 200 Hamas 
members and supporters have been rounded up by the PA security forces since the 
beginning of the most recent crisis nine days ago. 

In an attempt to ease the tensions between the two parties, Abbas on Thursday 
ordered the release of all the Hamas detainees. However, Hamas said the move 
was insufficient because only a handful of detainees had been released. 

Yaakov Katz contributed to this report


Kirim email ke