Report: Top PLO body to meet on Gaza clashes
Last update - 11:30 01/09/2007Report: Top PLO body to meet on Gaza clashesBy Haaretz Service and The Associated Press
The Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee will meet Saturday to discuss Friday's clashes between Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip, which left some 20 people wounded, Israel Radio reported.
According to the radio, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' office said Saturday that Hamas had crossed all lines, after Hamas men sparked the clashes by forcefully dispersing a Fatah protest.
The Hamas men fired in the air and beat demonstrators and reporters in order to disperse the protest against the Islamist group's rule in the Strip.
AdvertisementAccording to Israel Radio, Hamas media reported Saturday that unknown Palestinian gunmen had blown up a Hamas car in the Gaza Strip overnight Friday.
Two French journalists and two children were among those wounded in Friday's clashes, according to doctors and witnesses.
Reporters covering the protest said they witnessed the beating of one journalist by Hamas men. He was not seriously hurt.
The violence began at the end of a Fatah prayer meeting held to protest against Hamas, which seized control of the coastal territory in June. A similar protest last Friday also ended in clashes and harassment of journalists.
Fatah had called its supporters to openly hold weekly Friday prayers throughout the Gaza Strip to protest against what they said was persecution of its members in Hamas-controlled mosques.
After hundreds of Fatah supporters finished prayers in Gaza City, a group of worshippers pelted Hamas-controlled buildings with stones and pipe bombs. Some shouted insults at Hamas officials, including Shiites, in reference to the group's links to Iran.
Hamas men began firing into the air to disperse the crowd. In a frenzy, Hamas security forces then began arresting protesters and taking them away in jeeps, chasing them in the streets and also beating several demonstrators. Associated Press television footage showed several uniformed Hamas men beating an unarmed protester with long sticks.
A similar protest in Rafah broke up when Hamas men fired in the air. Stun grenades also landed amid the crowd, injuring the two children.
A statement from Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' office in Ramallah said the "crackdown on protesters aims to impose a blind dictatorship and an extremist culture that contradicts the values of our people and their heritage."
"The events in the Gaza Strip prove to everyone that the [Hamas] coup is nearing its end. Our heroic people in Gaza will not be terrorized by these mercenaries," the statement said.
Hamas men in civilian clothes had also joined the uniformed forces in dispersing the protest and beating protesters with sticks.
A small explosion from an unknown source injured two French journalists, one in his leg and the other on her hand. Neither injury was considered serious. A Hamas security spokesman said stun grenades and pipe bombs were used by the protesters.
Ihab al-Ghusain, the Hamas security spokesman, said "rioting is unacceptable in the law ... they had to be contained in anyway possible, according to the law."
After the clashes, heavily armed Hamas security agents entered the Associated Press offices in Gaza City and instructed staff not to film or photograph a nearby security building from the balcony without prior permission.
Saber Khalifa, a Hamas security spokesman, said his force was rounding up subverters. He didn't have a number of those arrested.
A Fatah official in Gaza said 25 men had been rounded up.