Mortars fired at Abbas' office; Hamas accuses Fatah of coup
Violence in Palestinian Authority escalates Sunday afternoon: Mortar shells fired at Palestinian president's Gaza City office; several people injured. Meanwhile, Hamas says Fatah's takeover of several government offices is a 'military coup'
Palestinian security sources reported that several mortar shells were fired at the offices in the Gaza Strip and that six people were injured – five security officers and a 45-year-old passer-by.
The Palestinian president was in Ramallah at the time and was not hurt.
Another mortar shell was fired at the office in the evening hours.
In the afternoon, Palestinian sources reported that gunmen opened fire at a procession organized by the Fatah movement in the northern Strip.
The demonstration, which was held in support of Abbas, turned into a show of force by dozens of Fatah activists and supporters. Eyewitnesses reported that three people were injured by the fire.
Window smashed next to Abbas' office (Photo: Reuters)
Meanwhile, about 4,000 gunmen from the Presidential Guard and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades took over the Transportation and Agriculture Ministries in Gaza. Hamas referred to the incidents as a "military coup," and Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar demanded that the offices be evacuated.
According to him, if the gunmen fail to leave the ministries they would be arrested and disarmed.
"What is happening is a real military coup – assassinations, assassination attempts, and a seizure of headquarters and government offices," al-Zahar said in a press conference.
Foreign minister under fire
The level of violence in the PA reached new highs Sunday, when the Palestinian Foreign Ministry reported in the afternoon of a failed attempt to assassinate al-Zahar. According to a statement issued by the ministry, snipers fired at the foreign minister's convoy, but he escaped unharmed.
Exchanges of fire erupted in the area of the incident in Gaza City between al-Zahar's people and the gunman or gunmen.
Hamas officials estimated that the incident was an assassination attempt carried out by Fatah members or the Palestinian Presidential Guard. Meanwhile, there were also reported of gunshots heard not far from the presidential residence used by Abbas in Gaza.
The incident in which al-Zahar was fired at took place after a member of the Palestinian Presidential Guard was shot to death by gunmen. The Guard and Fatah blamed Hamas, but the movement's military arm rushed to deny the accusations.
Palestinian sources in Gaza later reported that Hiba al-Maskhab, a 19-year-old student. Was also killed in exchanges of fire between Fatah and Hamas gunmen. At least 15 people were injured, including a French journalist.
News agencies contributed to the report