Hamas's military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, seized Fatah's senior field commanders in the Gaza Strip on Thursday night and Friday morning, a spokesman for the Islamic group announced Friday.
Hamas decided that all the detainees would be released, and some of them were freed Friday afternoon after being questioned.
The spokesman, Abu Obeideh, said the group's men arrested the commander of the National Security organization Jamal Kayyad, commander of the elite Presidential Guard Masbah al-Bahif, Fatah Secretary in the Strip Majed Abu Shamala, and Fatah spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khoussa, along with at least six other officials.
The men were questioned by Hamas, Abu Obeideh said on Hamas TV, adding in a press conference in Gaza City that all Fatah prisoners, including those seized on Friday, would be freed unharmed.
Nonetheless, there have been reports and even documentations of Fatah me being captured and executed by Hamas over the past few days.
Hamas men have been going through homes in the Strip Friday morning, in search of Fatah operatives and weapons. After five days of intense fighting, Hamas now controls the entire Gaza Strip.
A group of about 100 members of the Palestinian security forces have fled to Egypt via the Rafah crossing, following Hamas' takeover of the Strip, an Egyptian security source reported.
West Bank arrests continue
In the meantime, Palestinian Authority security forces, accompanied by Fatah members, have continued the wave of arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank.
According to estimates, hundreds of Hamas members have already been detained, in an operation launched in Ramallah on Wednesday, which is expected to go on for a few days, as the list of potential detainees contains some 1,500 names of Hamas activists.
Hamas gunmen in Abbas' office (Photo: AP)
In Ramallah, a PA security force on Thursday night raided a wedding of a family affiliated with Hamas and arrested about 20 guests.
In light of the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian Authority, Defense Minister Amir Peretz has decided to cancel his planned trip to Paris, which was scheduled for next week, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is currently abroad, has announced her early return to Israel on Sunday.
Commenting on the declaration of a state of emergency in the PA, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said, "The announcement that the National Unity Government has come to an end is of course a matter for regret.
"The Mecca Agreement and subsequent formation of the NUG seemed to be positive steps forward. But once again, extremists carrying guns have prevented progress against the wishes of the majority who seek a peaceful two-state solution.
"The current violence in Gaza and the West Bank remains deeply alarming and I again call on all parties, to agree an immediate ceasefire, for the sake of the Palestinian people. It is imperative that all sides agree to speak to each other. Dialogue is the only way to achieve a long lasting and sustainable peace."
Ronny Sofer and news agencies contributed to this report