Hamas and Fatah Battles Spread to Judea and Samaria

Murders and kidnappings continue as Gaza - and possibly the Palestinian Authority in general - moves towards civil war. Abbas outlaws Hamas' Executive Force, and Hamas responds by doubling it.

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Gil Zohar and Hillel Fendel, | updated: 22:39

The crisis in Gaza, bringing the region ever closer to a full-scale civil war between Hamas and Fatah, deepened Saturday evening when three Hamas terrorists from the Diri family were shot dead in an exchange of fire with members of the partially Fatah-affiliated Durmush clan. Among those killed was Abu Raed al-Diri, 50, the mukhtar [chief] of the large clan.

Around the same time, five Hamas members were kidnapped in the Gaza Strip on Saturday night.

The fighting is spreading to Judea and Samaria as well. Two Hamas officials were kidnapped in separate incidents in Shechem and Ramallah over the weekend, a Hamas man was mortally injured in Shechem, and fierce gun battles broke out in Jenin. Both Hamas and Fatah are said to be stockpiling weapons, the price of which has jumped sharply in recent weeks.

The killings and kidnappings are part of the escalating power struggle between Fatah and Hamas. In a statement released Saturday, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas outlawed Hamas's 'Executive Force" in the Gaza Strip, declaring that Hamas security forces in Gaza not integrated with PA forces would now be considered illegal.

Defiant Hamas spokesmen responded by announcing that the force's members would be doubled - from 6,000 to 12,000. Hamas also accused Abbas and his Fatah party of waging a massive operation designed to bring down the Hamas-led government.
At the same time, Israel's war against terrorism continued unabated: Arabs in Hawara, south of Shechem, hurled rocks at a car driven by a Jewish woman last night, smashing through the windshield. "Miraculously," the driver later said, "the rock did not crash through the car, but was angled to hit into the dashboard, and no one was hurt." Though the rock disabled the windshield wipers and the rain was often heavy, the car and passengers arrived safely at their destination... IDF forces arrested eight wanted terrorists during the night. These include four Fatah members in Tul Karem, two in Ramallah, and two Hamas men in the Hevron-Bethlehem area...

Abbas outlawed the Hamas force two days after its members attacked the home of a senior security commander in Gaza, killing the man and seven of his bodyguards. The man was a member of the Preventive Security force, which is loyal to Abbas' Fatah party.

"In light of continued security chaos and assassinations that got to a number of our fighters," Abbas' office said in a statement, "and in light of the failure of existing agencies and security apparatuses in imposing law and order and protecting the security of the citizens, President Mahmoud Abbas decided to reshuffle the security forces and its leadership and to consider the [Hamas] executive force, officers and members, illegal and outside the law."

Abbas was elected PA Chairman in a separate vote, and claims authority over most of the security forces. In turn, Hamas last year formed its own unit, known as the "Executive Force." Members of the black-clad Hamas militia are visible throughout Gaza, and have periodically clashed with the existing pro-Fatah security forces.

More than two dozen people have been killed in the latest wave of factional violence, which erupted early last month. Thursday's attack on the Fatah commander's home in northern Gaza was the bloodiest single battle in the standoff to date.

The latest flare-up comes despite the latest truce agreement between Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas to end the fighting. Reached Friday morning, this agreements also calls for the withdrawal of all armed militiamen from the streets of Gaza. The agreement followed three days of armed clashes between Fatah and Hamas supporters in which at least 20 people were killed and dozens injured.