Tensions between Fatah and Hamas are running high in the aftermath of a blast near a Gaza beach on Friday that killed five Hamas gunmen inside a car and a 6-year-old girl standing nearby. According to one report, the bomb was planted near parking places which usually serve the Hamas police. The dead terrorists were in their late 20s and early 30s, and were veteran members of the Hamas terror group.
Hamas immediately assumed Fatah was to blame for the blast, based on celebrations held shortly afterwards by Fatah, in and outside of Gaza. The official PA-Fatah television network broadcast scenes from the site of the explosion accompanied by victory marches and songs praising Fatah, as well as songs condemning dictators and criminals. Hamas viewed this as an official confession by the rival group.
Hamas security forces launched a broad arrest operation and have so far taken a reported 160 Fatah operatives into custody to the prison known as "Gaza's Guantanamo," a reference to the U.S. detention facility for terror suspects. Hamas has also raided some 40 offices of groups identified with Fatah in Gaza, including kindergartens and charities, and reportedly confiscated computers and files. Sources estimated that Hamas would now revoke permits it has given to Fatah for holding conventions and rallies, and that the negotiations between the groups would be discontinued.
PA-Fatah television broadcast scenes from the site of the explosion accompanied by victory marches and songs praising Fatah.
In response, Fatah responded by threatening action against Hamas in Judea and Samaria if Hamas does not stop the crackdown on its people in Gaza within 12 hours' time. Over the weekend, in fact, Fatah arrested 15 Hamas members.
Hamas-Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh instructed his subordinates to "track down the parties involved in [Friday's] horrible crime," warning that "those responsible for the blast will be brought to justice, to stand as an example for all those thinking of spilling Palestinian blood."
Fatah Gives Ultimatum
Haniyeh called for immediate action to prevent the situation from deteriorating into anarchy and said that the blast was intended to disrupt the "peace and security" Gaza has been enjoying for the past several months. Hamas blamed "the traitorous faction" – i.e., Fatah – as being behind the plot.
Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni said she believes that the chances of major deterioration in Gaza are slim.
Fatah condemned Friday's explosions in Gaza City. A statement released by PA-Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's office denied any involvement in the "mysterious explosion," and accused elements within Hamas of planting the explosives as part of an internal conflict.
'Blockade the Coup'
The Fatah bloc in the "Palestinian Legislative Council" blamed Hamas for a "fierce assault" against Fatah personnel and institutions in Gaza, including the headquarters of the Fatah parliamentary bloc in Gaza.
"What Hamas is doing is an evident attempt to avoid responding to President Abbas's initiative for ending the coup and resuming national dialogue. It is an attempt to mix all cards and cover for Hamas' real position which refuses to end the coup and sit down at the table for dialogue," the Fatah parliamentarians claimed, according to the Ma'an news service. The statement added that "the coup and those responsible [Hamas – ed.] must be blockaded, so that all their lifelines are cut off."