/ 13 November 2007

Hamas rounds up Fatah activists after Gaza violence

Hamas has rounded up scores of Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip following a rally that drew more than 200 000 supporters and ended in gunfire that killed seven people, officials said on Tuesday.

The assembly on Monday, marking the third anniversary of the death of iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, was the biggest held by President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah group in Gaza since Hamas Islamists seized the territory by force in June.

Islam Shahwan, spokesperson of the Hamas-led Executive Force, said it had detained about 50 Fatah members since the rally.

”They are the ones who planned and organised the rally yesterday [Monday] and are suspected of being responsible for the chaos that took place,” Shahwan said.

Fatah official Hazem Abu Shanab said Hamas security forces arrested 400 Fatah members and dozens more were ordered to report to police stations for questioning.

The rare Fatah rally broke up in chaos after gunfire rang out. Seven people were killed and 80 wounded, medical officials said. Most of the dead were buried on Monday.

Fatah officials accused Hamas forces of opening fire at the crowd. Hamas said its men had come under attack from Fatah gunmen and returned fire.

Abbas, preparing for a United States-hosted conference with Israel later this month on Palestinian statehood, has ruled out new dialogue with Hamas until the group relinquishes control of the Gaza Strip.

In a statement carried by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, Abbas said: ”Our people in the Gaza Strip went into the streets to reiterate to the whole world total rejection of the separatist group that carried out the coup.”

Abbas, who dismissed the Hamas-led government after Gaza’s takeover and governs from the West Bank, compared his rival’s actions at the rally with ”crimes of the Israeli occupier”.

He pledged to ”continue the struggle and remain steadfast in the face of occupation and separatists until our people regain their unity and national independence and establish a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital”. – Reuters