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Hamas Overruns Rival Fatah’s Key Posts

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – Hamas fighters overran two of the rival Fatah movement’s most important security command centers in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, and witnesses said the victors dragged vanquished gunmen into the street and shot them to death execution-style.  Meanwhile, an Israeli tank shell struck a group of siblings near the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on Thursday, Hamas security officials said. Hospital workers said five children, all under 16, were killed.  They identified the children as members of the Abu Matrok family.  Hamas security officials said they were from the Bedouin community of Showka, east of Rafah.  The army said it would look into the report.  Hamas also seized control of Rafah in the south, Gaza’s third-largest city, according to witnesses and security officials. It was the second main Gaza city to fall to the militants, who captured nearby Khan Younis on Wednesday.  Hamas captured the Preventive Security headquarters and the intelligence services building n Gaza City, major advances in the Islamic group’s attempts to take over Gaza.  After the rout at the Preventive Security headquarters, some of the Hamas fighters kneeled outside, touching their foreheads to the ground in prayer. Others led Fatah gunmen out of the building, some shirtless or in their underwear, holding their arms in the air. Several of the Fatah men flinched as the crack of gunfire split the air.  A witness, who identified himself only as Amjad, said men were killed as their wives and children watched.  “They are executing them one by one,” Amjad said in a telephone interview, declining to give his full name for fear of reprisals. “They are carrying one of them on their shoulders, putting him on a sand dune, turning him around and shooting.”  Fatah officials said Hamas shot and killed seven of its fighters outside the Preventive Security building. A doctor at Shifa Hospital, said he examined two bodies that had been shot in the head at close range. The officials and the doctor spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.  Militants and civilians were looting the compound, hauling out computers, documents, office equipment, furniture and TVs.  The moderate President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, for the first time in five days of fierce fighting, ordered his elite presidential guard to strike back. But his forces were crumbling fast under the onslaught by the better-armed and better-disciplined Islamic fighters.  In all, 14 fighters and civilians were killed and 80 wounded in the battle for the Preventive Security complex, bringing the day’s death toll to 25 by mid-afternoon, hospital and security officials said. About 90 people, mostly fighters but also women and children, have been killed since a spike in violence Sunday sent Gaza into civil war.  The two factions have warred sporadically since Hamas took power from Fatah last year, but never with such intensity. Hamas reluctantly brought Fatah into the coalition in March to quell an earlier round of violence, but the uneasy partnership began crumbling last month over control of the powerful security forces.  Hamas had been tightening its ring around the Preventive Security complex for three days, stepping up its assault late Wednesday, with a barrage of bullets, grenades, mortar rounds and land mines that continued until the compound fell. Electricity and telephone lines were cut, and roads leading to the complex were blocked. Hamas claimed it confiscated two cars filled with arms sent as reinforcements.  As Hamas took this major battle spoil, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s top body recommended that Abbas declare a state of emergency and dismantle Fatah’s governing coalition with Hamas. Abbas said he would review the recommendations and make decision within hours, said an aide, Nabil Amr.  “We are telling our people that the past era has ended and will not return,” Islam Shahawan, a spokesman for Hamas’ militia, told Hamas radio. “The era of justice and Islamic rule have arrived.”  Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, heralded what he called “Gaza’s second liberation,” after Israel’s 2005 evacuation of the coastal strip.  Israel was watching the carnage closely, concerned the clashes might spawn attacks on its southern border. Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz told a weekly meeting of security officials that Israel would not allow the violence to spread into attacks on southern Israel, meeting participants said.  The European Union said it suspended humanitarian aid projects in the Gaza Strip, citing the escalating violence there.  The Islamic group also had its sights on two other key command centers in Gaza City on Thursday.  In a broadcast on Hamas radio, the Islamic fighters demanded that Fatah surrender the National Security compound by mid-afternoon. Light clashes were under way there when the ultimatum was delivered.  Rocket-propelled grenades were fired toward Abbas’ Gaza compound, provoking return fire from his presidential guard. For the first time since the fighting began, Abbas ordered his guard to go on the offensive against Hamas at the compound, and not simply maintain a defensive posture, an aide said.  He spoke on condition of anonymity because the situation was fluid.  Earlier Hamas fired dozens of rocket-propelled grenades at the intelligence services building. When they captured it, the fighters raised the green Islamic flag.  In Rafah, Hamas took over the Preventive Security building, according to witnesses and said Col. Nasser Khaldi, a senior police official.  “I can see the Preventive Security building in front of me. Hamas has raised its green flags over it,” a civilian resident, who identified himself only as Raed, said by telephone. “There are men carrying away equipment from inside. … (The Fatah-allied) National Security men ran away.”  Gaza hospitals were operating without water, electricity and blood. Even holed up inside their homes, Gazans weren’t able to escape fighting that turned apartment buildings into battlefields.  Moean Hammad, 34, said life had become a nightmare at his high-rise building near the Preventive Security headquarters, where Fatah forces on the rooftop were battling Hamas fighters.  “We spent our night in the hallway outside the apartment because the building came under crossfire,” Hammad said. “We haven’t had electricity for two days, and all we can hear is shooting and powerful, earthshaking explosions.  “The world is watching us dying and doing nothing to help. God help us, we feel like we are in a real-life horror movie,” he said.  Shaher Hatoum, a nurse at nearby Al Quds hospital, said the facility had no electricity, water or blood, and that wounded were propped up on ward floors. Hundreds of bullets flew through windows, and fighters ignored the hospital’s appeals to hold fire just long enough to have the generator and water pipes fixed, he said.  “We are waiting here for our end,” Hatoum said.  Fatah has threatened to carry the fighting to the West Bank, where Hamas is weak. There have been sporadic battles in the West Bank this week, and on Thursday, Fatah went across the territory rounding up Hamas fighters in an effort to assert control.  Sheik Saleh Arrouri, a Hamas leader in the West Bank, told a radio station that Abbas called a joint meeting of the territory’s Fatah and Hamas leadership in Ramallah for later Thursday.  The violence has exposed the depths of the disarray in Fatah’s ranks since Hamas ended Fatah’s 40-year dominion of Palestinian politics last year.  Fatah has asked Israeli permission to bring in more arms and armored vehicles, but Tzahi Hanegbi, chairman of the Israeli parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told Army Radio that arming Fatah would be “insane” because the weapons would fall into Hamas hands.  He said Israel was considering backing Fatah forces in the West Bank, but did not elaborate.  U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday he discussed the possible deployment of a multinational force in Gaza with the Security Council.

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June 14, 2007 - Posted by | Blogroll, news, personal, politics, random, religion, Terrorism, Terrorism In The U.S., Terrorism News, Uncategorized, War-On-Terror

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