Hamas cracked down on a Gaza demonstration supporting rival Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday, a day before Abbas is to meet US President Barack Obama in Washington DC. Thirteen demonstrators were arrested.
Abbas's Fatah party, which holds power in Judea and Samaria, organized the aborted demonstration in Hamas-stronghold Gaza. Fatah official Mohammed Nahal told AFP around 80 demonstrators were attacked by police while gathering in Gaza City.
"The police and Hamas's internal security forces attacked them and dispersed the demonstration. They arrested 13 people and beat up others," reported Nahal.
Meanwhile Hamas police spokesman Ayub Abu Shaar acknowledged the arrests, saying "police broke up a gathering of a group of people who were demonstrating...because it was unauthorized."
The clash highlights tensions which, despite talk of reconciliation, led to Gaza's lone power plant being shut off on Saturday, in what an Israeli official described as an "internal conflict" between the two groups.
Hamas, which conquered Gaza from the PA in 2007, has refused to pay what it says are exorbitant taxes to the PA for fuel. That, along with an Egyptian siege on smuggling tunnels, has led Gaza to suffer fuel shortages since last November.
Easing Gaza's energy crisis, Israel on Sunday reopened the Kerem Shalom crossing after closing it last Thursday. The crossing, which normally is closed Friday and Saturday, was closed for a day last week after Gaza rained nearly 100 rockets on Israel from last Wednesday in an extreme escalation.
Differences between Hamas and PA?
While Israel is negotiating peace with Abbas and essentially ignoring Hamas, some consider there to be little difference in terms of the goals of the two rivals. Abbas has repeatedly and adamantly refused to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.
Just last Wednesday a PA official close to Abbas called Israelis "an advanced instrument of evil," claiming "Allah will gather them so that we can kill them."
The same official in January revealed that any peace agreement would only be the "first stage" in wiping out Israel completely, and in February emphasized that Fatah had not ruled out military options against Israel.
PA Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat admitted in February that Abbas is only staying in the peace talks to release all 104 terrorist prisoners Israel promised to release as a "gesture."