Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced Wednesday evening that he was dissolving the Palestinian unity government and declared a state of emergency in the Gaza Strip, in light of the ongoing violence between Hamas and Fatah..
Abbas had informed the representatives of the Quartet, the US and Jordan of his plans prior to making the official statement. The president intends to call for the deployment of a multinational force in Gaza, in a bid to overpower Hamas. He may also propose an independent candidate to replace the current prime minister, Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh, in his post.
The president's aide, Tayeb Abdel Rahim, told a news conference that Abbas considered the Hamas fighters who have seized control of most of the Fatah-allied security headquarters in Gaza to be an "outlaw militia." He added that Abbas may "return to the people" when circumstances allow.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice phoned Abbas to express her support. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack added that Rice told Abbas the US would consider stationing a multinational force in Gaza, but that it may encounter difficulties in recruiting soldiers for the task.
Meanwhile, Hamas' spokesman in the Strip, Sami Abu Zuhri, said that Abbas' decision was legally invalid, because any interim government would have to be based on the current one. He added that the president's decision is likely to have been influenced by American pressure.
In the meantime, Hamas gunmen continued to chase down senior Fatah officials who managed to infiltrate Hamas roadblocks. One of those officials, Samih al-Madhoun, an al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leader, was captured and shot dead in the central part of the Strip, apparently while making his way to Egypt.
The fire exchanges between Hamas and Fatah went on in the two last sites where Fatah and PA officials had barricaded themselves. Fierce gunbattles ensued in the Saraya compound, where government offices and security headquarters are located.
Palestinian sources reported that the commander of the jail located at the compound released the criminal prisoners that were being held there following a Hamas ultimatum.
Witnesses estimated that the compound would be taken over within the next few hours, and that the focus of the confrontation would shift to the last compound, Ansar, close to Abbas' headquarters.