Gun Battles, Shellings and Kidnappings in the PA

Hamas and Fatah terrorists continue to shoot, shell and kidnap each other, making mincemeat out of a declared ceasefire. Four deaths were reported by Tuesday afternoon. IDF sources: no civil war.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz & Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu , | updated: 9:00 AM

At least one unidentified Gaza Arab was killed Tuesday morning, when Palestinian Authority militiamen from the two competing factions waged a gun battle near the Shiba Hospital in Gaza City. Several people found themselves trapped inside a nearby mosque for fear of getting shot in the crossfire.

By later in the day, two more men - members of Fatah - had been killed, shortly after being kidnaped. Their bodies were found in the street. Hamas denied involvement.

The clashes involved the elite forces of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and the well-trained and well-equipped Hamas terrorist militia. IDF sources said on Monday that several Hamas fighters are being trained in Iran.

One Fatah security officer was shot dead during the day on Monday. Most of Monday night's fighting took place in the area of Jabalya, in northern Gaza, but a gunfight also broke out near the homes of Fatah strongman Mohamed Dahlan in Gaza City, and mortars were fired in the morning at Abbas' Gaza home.

Also on Monday, Hamas forces released, as a "gesture of good will," Sufian Abu Zaydeh, former Fatah minister of prisoner affairs for the PA, whom they had kidnapped shortly beforehand. Shortly after his release, Fatah terrorists, who back PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, abducted 11 Hamas fighters in revenge.

Hamas said it snatched Abu Zaydeh in retaliation for the earlier kidnapping by Fatah of Hamas official Emad De'eb.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades spokesmen said that Hamas "broke all the rules" by abducting Abu Zaydeh and that the action was "the reddest line that has been crossed" in the intra-Arab battles. The fighting has threatened to fray still further the war-torn fabric of Gaza society as splinter terror groups continue to act independently of agreements forged by rival gangs.

One of the abductees is the brother of Palestinian Authority Fatah legislator Ala'a Yaghi. French and Arab news agencies reported that five Fatah and four Hamas members were kidnapped, besides the 11 Hamas fighters abducted late Monday. By nightfall, Hamas and Fatah terrorist leaders agreed to free hostages each side had taken during the day. It is unclear if the kidnappers have as yet fulfilled the agreement.

Israeli Security Services: No Civil War
Israeli security services estimate that, despite the shootings, shelling and kidnappings, there will be no civil war among the Arabs of the Palestinian Authority. A source in the defense establishment said that the battles will not likely develop into a war that involves all PA Arabs, simply because many PA families that have both Fatah- and Hamas-affiliated members. "At the most, it will be a militia war," the source said.

IDF intelligence sources believe that the two factions will eventually agree to new elections, as per the speech delivered last week by PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The agreement, IDF sources note, may be due to efforts of leaders of small PA terrorist groups that would not be able to compete with either Hamas or Fatah, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Islamic Jihad and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). New elections, if agreed upon, cannot take place until May 2007, which will give the PA about six months of calm, according to the IDF analysis. Hamas announced yesterday, however, that it would boycott any new elections.

New Ceasefire Proposal
In fact, a new internal Palestinian Authority ceasefire plan is to be put on the table by Wednesday. The plan is the work of the PFLP, the DFLP and the People's Party, and it calls for renewed talks among all PA factions leading to a unity government within two weeks.

A representative of the People's Party, Walid Al-Awad, said that the three factions are currently working out the wording of the proposed agreement. They expect to be able to present a draft to PA President Abbas, representing Fatah, and PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, of Hamas, within 24 hours. The three independent factions see themselves as referees of the implementation of the agreement, determining which side is guilty in the event of further clashes.

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