At least 75 Palestinians – including security officers, passersby, and members of Hamas’ special security force – were hurt in violent confrontations and gun battles that erupted in Khan Younis Sunday morning.
A Palestinian was killed near the parliament building in Gaza, and another four were wounded. Shortly afterwards it was reported that a teenagers who was injured in the clashes died of his wounded. A member of the Palestinian presidential guard was also killed in exchanges of fire in Gaza City. Another five people were killed in other incidents, three of them Palestinian security officers.
In the afternoon hours, Palestinian sources reported that Hamas members kidnapped a Fatah member in Gaza City, and the man's home was burned to the ground. Sources said it was believed that other members of the household were taken hostage as well.
Clashes erupted between Palestinian security forces demonstrating in Khan Younis to demand months of unpaid wages from the Hamas government, and the Hamas special security detail. A gun battle erupted between the two sides – using light weapons and hand grenades – after Hamas security demanded Interior Minister Said Siyam quash the protest.
Medical sources in Gaza City said on Sunday that a cameraman working for al-Arabia satellite channel has been moderately injured in the clashes.
Speaking from Cairo, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Palestinians to end the violence and promised to punish those responsible for the clashes and those who took part in them.
"The clashes have crossed a red line which we have been careful not to cross for years," he said, and declared he was launching a probe into the clashes. "Prime Minister Haniyeh and his men must now claim responsibility and refrain from a continuation of the violence."
Looking to a possible new Israeli offensive, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, of Hamas, urged Palestinians to end the internal violence "in the face of a serious escalation from the occupation forces."
Haniyeh spoke with Abbas, of Fatah, by telephone and called for joint action to end the fighting, Haniyeh's office said.
But in a televised speech, Haniyeh also defended the Hamas gunmen, saying they acted lawfully in trying to break up the protests.
The clashes started in Khan Younis but within a few hours had spread to Gaza City as well. In the Gaza Strip, concerns were high that the situation would escalate and the violence would spread to other sites. The special Hamas security apparatus was deployed in great numbers at central junctions.
Following the clashes, Fatah activists set fire to the Palestinian parliament building in Ramallah. Eyewitnesses reported that the activists broke into the building, and set an office on the second floor on fire. Shortly afterwards, the fire spread to all parts of the building, which was empty at the time.
Meanwhile, Hamas called up members of its military wing, the Izz a-din al-Qassam Brigades, to join in the fighting against the Palestinian Authority security forces in Gaza City, security sources said.
Fatah and rivals Hamas blamed one another for stirring a civil war in the Palestinian Authority shortly after Sunday's clashes.
While Fatah officials said Hamas was stirring "a war among brothers," Hamas operatives said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah was collaborating with the international community to topple the Hamas-led government.
In an effort to prevent further escalations, Abbas issued a statement on Sunday calling on members of the security forces to halt clashes with Hamas gunmen.
During a Ramallah protest, members of Fatah's military wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, blamed Hamas for the violence and threatened to target Hamas institutions in the West Bank if gun battles in Gaza persist.
Over the past few days, Palestinian Authority security forces, mostly Fatah members who have been serving since that party’s tenure in government, have been demonstrating to demand months of unpaid wages from the Hamas government.
Security forces blocked central junctions and intersections, burned tires and fired off rounds of gunshots into the air. The Hamas government’s special security force asked to suppress “the security rebellion and stop the armed protests at all cost.”
Already Saturday, during a security forces protest in Dir al-Balak in central Gaza, a grenade was thrown towards protestors, wounding five people. Following the events, the striking security forces decided to instruct its members to conduct non-violent protests, refrain from bearing arms, and concentrate demonstrations to the areas of the protest tents set up around the Strip.
“We must do all we can not to play into the hands of those who want to drag the Palestinian sphere into civil war to cover for their own failures,” the protest leaders said, hinting at the Hamas government.
The message also accused the interior minister of fanning the flames and pushing for bloodshed.
AP contributed to the report