More than 80 Palestinians – most of them gunmen, but some civilians and children – were killed in the past week in the civil war taking place in the Gaza Strip between Fatah and Hamas.
Another three Palestinians were killed Wednesday night, and the clashes between Hamas fighters and Fatah gunmen continued in full force Thursday morning, mainly in Fatah's Preventive Security Service compound in Gaza City.
Aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that he had given the first order to his elite presidential guard to strike back against Hamas rivals.
On Thursday morning, members of Hamas' military wing completed the takeover of all the buildings overlooking the Preventive Security Service building. According to Hamas officials, dozens of the service's members, which is considered one of the strongest organizations in the Strip, had turned themselves in.
The officials also claimed that part of the compound was already under their control. Sources at the Preventive Security Service denied the report, but confirmed that heavy exchanges of fire were taking place in the area.
Hamas gunmen in Gaza (Photo: AFP)
Hamas sources said that after taking over the Preventive Security Service building, they would move to Muntada and Ansar compounds, where Abbas' office and the rest of the PA's security headquarters are located, and would also take over the Palestinian television building.
Meanwhile, Fatah has begun broadcasting security instructions to the Palestinian security officers on television, calling on them not to surrender to Hamas. The television warned of a military coup and cautioned the Palestinians not to be lured in by the propaganda and the psychological war led by Hamas.
Abbas' advisor, Nabli Amro, held a press conference Thursday morning and said that "the Hamas movement presented a series of demands for a ceasefire, which are in fact a political translation of what they are carrying out in Gaza – an attempt to achieve goals through violence, and this is unacceptable."
According to Amro, Abbas will convene the PLO and Fatah institutions and make a series of firm decisions, with all options on the agenda. Fatah has been threatening to quit the government since Tuesday, after suspending its ministers' activity in it.
Amro said that Abbas had recently discussed the issue with many officials, including Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in a bid to reach a ceasefire.
"Abbas warned them of the consequences of the internal war, but there was no response, and it appears that after each talk there was an escalation on the part of Hamas," he added.
Amro said that Hamas was acting like Israel.
"They are declaring many areas in the Strip, where fighters and innocent people live, closed military zoned. This is unacceptable. Hamas is drunk with power."
The Palestinians Authority's security forces, accompanied by Fatah members, began arresting
senior Hamas members in the West Bank on Wednesday night.
The operation was launched in Ramallah, and the list of detainees contained 1,500 names of senior Hamas members and activists.
Taking over Strip (Photo: AFP)
Sources in the Gaza Strip said that all Hamas members which were not held by Israel were expected to be arrested in the operation, which would only be halted if Hamas declared that it would accept a ceasefire in the coming hours.
The list of detainees contained Hamas mayors, university and charity activists, and people involved in the organization's religious activity.
This was the first wave of detentions launched by the PA against Hamas members since the end of the 1990s. PA officials said the operation reminded them of the wave of detentions carried out after Hamas' series of terror attacks in Israel in 1996, when the PA's prisons were filled with hundreds of senior Hamas members.
Aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the decision on the operation was made after Hamas did not hide its plan "to destroy any remnant of the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip," and after his efforts to convince Hamas members to reach a ceasefire failed.
Abbas is also expected to declare the disbandment of the Palestinian government and the Palestinian Legislative Council in the coming hours, and declare a state of emergency in the PA and different steps he plans to take against Hamas.
His associates said that he had briefed a number of international Arab officials on the details of his plan and that he had been in touch with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal in the past few days.
On Wednesday, Abbas spoke to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, but all his efforts for a ceasefire failed, and therefore he decided to take a number of harsh retaliation acts against Hamas.
Meanwhile, Hamas is preparing for the possibility of multinational forces arriving in the Strip. The idea,
which was raised by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday night with the support of Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert,
was rejected out of hand by Hamas.
"We will treat these forces as occupation forces," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.