Fatah, Hamas Battle in Gaza Threatens Government

A Fatah gunman stands in front of a charred vehicle in Gaza City. i i

A Fatah gunman stands in front of a charred vehicle that he said was used by six Hamas militants to try and attack Fatah positions in the latest round of factional fighting in Gaza City. Dion Nissenbaum/McClatchy Newspapers hide caption

itoggle caption Dion Nissenbaum/McClatchy Newspapers
A Fatah gunman stands in front of a charred vehicle in Gaza City.

A Fatah gunman stands in front of a charred vehicle that he said was used by six Hamas militants to try and attack Fatah positions in the latest round of factional fighting in Gaza City.

Dion Nissenbaum/McClatchy Newspapers

In heavy fighting across the Gaza Strip, the latest battles between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have left more than 20 people dead in the past three days, with more than 80 killed in the past month.

Fatah leaders who are loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are now warning that the precarious unity government formed with their rivals from Hamas may not last.

After nearly three days of clashes, hulks of burned-out buses and cars litter main roadways in Gaza City, where gunmen guard makeshift checkpoints at major intersections.

By sundown Tuesday night, the fighting had started anew. Fatah's Presidential Guard began blasting Hamas strongholds along the waterfront in central Gaza City. Soon after, Hamas retaliated.

Palestinian Prime Minister's House Attacked

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh escaped injury Tuesday after a rocket-propelled grenade hit his home. His Hamas movement said the attack was an assassination attempt by Fatah.

The death toll is rising from recent factional fighting between the rivals in the Gaza Strip. At least 21 Palestinians were killed Monday and overnight.

The intensified fighting shattered a truce that is two weeks old as appeals for calm by factional leaders have gone unheeded.

Fatah and Hamas gunmen are battling for control of security centers in Gaza City. The main presidential security compound is the scene of fierce combat.

Fatah loyalists are using heavy machine guns and 25 mm cannons, while Hamas fighters respond with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons.

Mohammed Suewherekey, a 28-year-old newlywed, became a casualty of the fighting. He worked as a cook and supply clerk with Force 17, an elite unit controlled by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and Fatah leader.

Suewherekey was kidnapped by Hamas militants while delivering food to soldiers Sunday evening as new factional clashes erupted. Around dusk, Hamas gunmen took him to the roof of an 18-floor abandoned high-rise in central Gaza City and pushed him off.

"Mohammed's legs had been tied together with his own belt. His hands also had been tied, and they threw him off the roof," said Rami Suewherekey, Mohammed's brother.

Sitting under a blue plastic tarp at the mourning tent for his brother's funeral, Rami said Hamas officials who witnessed the murder kept phoning the family, telling them Mohammed was sipping tea with his captives and would soon be released.

"We hope that Hamas keeps on inventing new ways of killing the people so the rest of the world knows the truth and the reality of Hamas and how vicious they really are," said Rami, 35.

He said Islam's core is about mercy and forgiveness. "We don't want retaliation. We don't want any more bloodshed in this civil war," he added.

But Fatah fighters were not in a forgiving mood. Later that night, loyalists shot 24-year-old Hossam Abu Ghanus, a suspected Hamas supporter, and hurled his body off a 10-story tower.

The tit-for-tat high-rise killings were just the beginning of a new, brutal round of internal Palestinian fighting.

On Monday night, Force 17 brought out one of its few functioning armored personnel carriers and blasted away with its main cannon and heavy machine guns. The target? Hamas gunmen holed up in the abandoned high-rise from which Mohammed Suewherekey was thrown.

Also Monday night, Hamas gunmen laid siege to the home of Jamal Al-Jedyan, a Fatah leader in northern Gaza and a close aid to Gaza strongman and Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan. Hamas gunmen shot Al-Jedyan 45 times and also killed his brother after storming his house, according to witnesses and hospital officials.

Four people were killed earlier when fighting erupted inside and around Beit Hanoun's main hospital. Militants also stormed Gaza City's Al-Shifa hospital, prompting health care workers to flee in fear and to protest that Gaza hospitals had, once again, become combat zones.

The fighting has prompted thousands of residents to flee.

One is 39-year-old Ali Badwan, a married father of four, who says there's no place in Gaza for reasonable people. He directs a management consulting firm there and is the kind of educated entrepreneur who will be needed to someday help rebuild the Strip.

"They have no voice. The voice is only for the gun machines. This is the problem," he said. "We don't understand really what they are fighting for – to build a state by fighting each other? They will destroy themselves and our country."

European Union monitors at the Rafah border crossing in southern Gaza say in the past year, at least 30 Palestinians have left Gaza Strip every day and have not returned. That's double the daily permanent migration from the previous year.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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