Monday, 1 June 2009


Police raid sparks West Bank clash


Three Palestinian police officers, two Hamas fighters and a
bystander have been killed in a clash in the occupied West
Bank, Palestinian security officials say.

Sunday's confrontation is among the deadliest factional
fighting since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in

Police from the Palestinian Authority (PA) carried out a
dawn raid on a house in the northern West Bank town of
Qalqilya in order to arrest the Hamas fighters, sparking a
gun battle in the streets, police said.

The two dead fighters were named as Mohammad Samman, the
local commander, and Mohammad Yasin, a member, of Hamas's
military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

The owner of the house also died in the firefight.

Witnesses said Samman and Yasin had taken refuge in the

There were reports of curfew in Qalqilya but the PA denied
its imposition.

The incident is sure to further stoke tensions between
Fatah, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and

"These kinds of clashes have happened in the past, but
these are by far the most serious in the West Bank," Al
Jazeera's Nour Odeh, reporting from Ramallah, said.

The bodies of the Hamas commanders and the house owner were
buried under tight security, apparently to avoid further
confrontation, she said.

The funeral of the PA officers was attended by Salam
Fayadh, the Palestinian prime minister; Said Abu Ali, the
interior minister; and the entire top brass of the PA's
security force.

Abbas, speaking from Amman, Jordan, hailed the security
officers for their "professional work", saying that the PA
would "strike with an iron fist" anyone who challenges its
authority and the law.

Hamas condemnation

Hamas decried the killing over mosque loudspeakers in Gaza

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said there was no chance
of further reconciliation talks with Fatah after the
"escalation by security services of Abu Mazen [Abbas] and
Fatah against Hamas and its leaders in the West Bank".

He said "Fatah should choose - dialogue with us or doing
the dirty work of the Zionist enemy".

Egypt, which is trying to broker a reconciliation between
Hamas and Fatah, has set July 7 as the deadline for its

Abu Obeida, an al-Qassam Brigades spokesman, accused
Abbas's forces of playing into Israeli hands by mounting
the raid.

"They gave to the Zionist forces more than what the Zionist
forces could do," he said.

"We call on the Palestinian people in the West Bank to
reject and denounce these acts of the suspicious personnel
and to confront and stand up for these high treasons ...
the blood of those martyred in Qalqliya will remain a curse
and we hold Mahmoud Abbas with direct responsibility."

Odeh said "none of the neighbours or witnesses we spoke to
said or confirmed that they saw or heard Israeli forces".

"There were additional troops called in from nearby cities
that were not separated from Qalqilya by Israeli
checkpoints - in other words, there was no security
co-ordination with the Israelis - at least, that we know
of," she said.

"This was a purely Palestinian-on-Palestinian operation."

Adnan Damiri, a PA spokesman, said that security forces
tried to prevent casualties in the densely populated
neighbourhoods of Qalqilya by attempting to engage Hamas in
dialogue, but that their offer was refused.

He said that during the arrest, police discovered Hamas
leaflets containing "incitement against the Palestinian
Authority and against the Palestinian security branches".

"We consider what happened today as very dangerous," Damiri
said. "It was an attempt to destroy any hope of resuming
the (reconciliation) dialogue."

All-time low

Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin in Gaza said confidence
between Hamas and Fatah is "really at an all-time low".

"After today's incident involving the killings and
tit-for-tat accusations, very strong words came out from
Salah al-Bardawil, a leading member of Hamas and the
parliamentary bloc in the Gaza Strip.

"He said Hamas is going to carefully reconsider withdrawing
from [the reconciliation] talks."

Mohyeldin said thousands of Gazans, including Ismael
Radwan, a senior Hamas politician, held a protest march to
condemn the attack on al-Qassam Brigades members.

"The rally was attended by several other Palestinians, all
of whom described the PA security forces' actions as an act
of treason and collaboration with Israeli security forces,"
Mohyeldin said.

"They have been pointing to the recent round-up of Hamas
members in the West Bank, including one incident in the
city of Hebron, where a member of the group's military wing
was killed by Israeli security forces."

According to Hamas, 22 of its members were arrested in the
West Bank on Saturday.

Mohyeldin said many in Gaza were pointing an accusing
finger at the PA security forces, suggesting that they
tipped off the Israelis. "Those are very strong words of
accusations and do nothing but to divide the Palestinians
even more," he said.

'Politically motivated'

Hamas says that Fatah-dominated security forces are
pursuing a politically motivated crackdown against Hamas
activists, a claim which Fatah has also made about Hamas in

But in his comments to the media on Sunday, PA's Damiri
said: "We in the Palestinian security branches are not a
political force. We are security. We will not allow any
Palestinian party to have guns and threaten civilians."

Odeh said that over the the past several months,
Palestinian security forces had announced and shown tapes
of confiscated weapons in mosques in Qalqilya.

"They have refrained up until this incident from pointing
the finger at Hamas, but in line with PA policy, the
security apparatus has been uncompromising in making sure
that no one carries guns except security personnel," she

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