Hamas gunmen on Thursday afternoon captured the second of four major Fatah command centers in Gaza City, planting the group's green flag on the roof of the intelligence services building. Earlier in the day Hamas seized control of the the Palestinian Preventive Security headquarters in Gaza, reportedly executing witnesses and several defeated Fatah members. At least 10 people were killed.
Meanwhile a large explosion rocked Gaza City as Fatah forces abandoned a security post and blew it up as they left, saying they would rather destory the post than leave it for Hamas.
Hamas took over vehicles and weapons in the Preventive Security compound, one of the Palestinian Authority's enduring symbols in the Strip. Strongly identified with Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, the organization has even cooperated with Israel in the past on security issues.
Hamas' official television station broadcasted reports from inside the compound, where senior Hamas members have been taken for questioning in the past.
Hamas TV also showcased a display of weapons seized from inside the building, as well as jeeps, mortar shells and bulletproof vests seized in the compound, which according to Hamas, were smuggled to Fatah by Israel and the Americans in the past few months through the border with Egypt.
Name changed, as well as mission
Hamas members held a prayer in the compound, which they referred to as the "heresy compound." Hamas also changed the name of the neighborhood where the building is located from "Tel al-Hawa" to "Tel al-Islam."
Hamas' media outlets threatened to reach Fatah and the PA's official radio and telelvision stations, and provided the names of senior Fatah officials they planned to execute. "We will reach you," Hamas members told the Fatah leaders.
Meanwhile, the gunmen collected weapons and ammunitions from the Fatah members' homes and from families affiliated with them.
Hamas members lead Preventive Security Service officers out of building (Photo: Al-Jazeera)
"This is the first step in the establishment of the Islamic state," a Hamas member told Ynet from inside the Preventive Security Service building. "This is Islam's victory, Allah's victory, and we pray to Allah for brining us this victory."
Hamas officials announced that the building would turn into a college for religion studies, and that the Sariya – the PA's government office building – would turn into a large religious center.
Aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that he had given the first order to his elite presidential guard to strike back against Hamas rivals.
Displaying weapons (Photo: AFP)
Fatah launched a wave of arrests in the West Bank On Wednesday night, and has so far arrested 30 Hamas members. On Thursday afternoon, Abbas met with the PLO's Executive Committee, which recommended that he disband the unity government and declare a state of emergency in Gaza.
The Palestinian president is also considering declaring the Gaza Strip a "rebelling district" and saying that the only legal and official rule in the Palestinian Authority was in Ramllah.
This would force Hamas to decide whether it wants to run the Strip on its own, with all the political and economic consequences. PA officials said that Hamas did in fact smuggle large sums of money into the Strip, but that they doubted whether these sums would be able to fund the Strip's activity for more than a short period.
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.