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Hamas gunmen at Rafah crossing Photo: AP
Hamas gunmen at Rafah crossing Photo: AP
 
 

Gaza killings continue

Six killed from both sides, due to ongoing factional clashes; hundreds flee to Erez crossing, in fear of Hamas retaliation. Over 100 Palestinians die in internal violence this week

Ali Waked, News agencies
Published: 06.16.07, 23:32 / Israel News

Six Palestinians were killed Saturday during exchanges of fire between Hamas and Fatah forces in Gaza. Two Hamas operatives and two members of the Fatah-affiliated Preventative Security Forces were killed in separate incidents.

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Additionally, two civilians from clans loyal to Fatah were killed Saturday, in what the secular faction alleges were revenge killings.  Some 100 Palestinians have been killed in the last week, as a result of the infighting.

 

Palestinian sources said Hamas gunmen killed the two members of the al-Astal clan - the largest in Khan Younis - and injured a number of others, when trying to round up weapons in the southern Gaza town.

 

Islam Shahwan, a spokesman for the Hamas militia, said no exceptions would be made in the weapons roundup. "The point is to collect all illegal weapons from all families." he said, adding Hamas was trying to negotiate an end to the standoff.

 

But sources said Hamas gunmen were going house to house, deliberately seeking Fatah rivals to seize their weapons. At least 200 Fatah men have already fled the territory to neighboring Egypt.

 

Also Saturday, the bodies of seven Hamas members were found in the basement of the Preventive Security Service headquarters, a Fatah stronghold captured Thursday, and the bullet-riddled corpse of a Fatah field commander turned up in southern Gaza.

 

No refuge

Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinians are stuck at Erez crossing, after flocking there due to rumors that Israel was allowing people entry to Israel and the West Bank.

 

Israel indeed had granted special authorization in recent days for the transfer of leading Fatah officials and their families, who were in mortal danger. However, it closed Erez crossing entirely Saturday afternoon, after Hamas gunmen took over two nearby crossings – Rafah and Karni.

 

Palestinians who arrived at Erez, some 400 in number, are stuck in a difficult situation. They clearly cannot get out of Gaza, but many now feel they can't go back to their homes in the Strip without having to face the dangers of being considered Fatah sympathizers.

 

"Hamas sees my son as a Fatah sympathizer. If we go back they’ll kill him," said Umm Ahmed Abu-Zanied, who – along with her son – fled Hamas' wrath. The two told Ynet that Hamas gunmen looted their home, forcing them to run for their lives.

 

Hamas has set up checkpoints all over Gaza to prevent high-ranking Fatah officials from leaving the area. 

 

AP and AFP contributed to this report

 

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