Friday, January 23, 2009

Fatah Attacked by Hamas

From The New York Times, January 22, 2009, by SABRINA TAVERNISE:

GAZA CITY ... Men from Hamas have begun to assault people they suspect of supporting its chief political rival, Fatah....

...Fatah accused Hamas of harassing and harming its members in the Gaza Strip.

Yasser Abd Rabbo, an ally of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said at a news conference in Ramallah on Thursday that Hamas had “turned its rifles in the direction of Fatah members” after Israel stopped its military offensive on Sunday. Mr. Rabbo accused Hamas of placing Fatah supporters under house arrest and shooting some of them in the legs, an intimidation tactic that it used in the past.

...members of Fatah contend that Hamas has begun harassing Fatah supporters to reassert its authority in Gaza. The hopes of Mr. Abbas and Egypt for the creation of a unity government that would bring together the two rival groups could be undermined by reprisals.

...A Palestinian human rights worker, who was granted anonymity because of the delicacy of the topic and the preliminary nature of his findings, said he had received reports of about 30 cases of abuse, including as many as five killings. He said he had not yet been able to verify each case.

[A man] said in an interview that he had been forced into a car by three men wearing masks while he was walking to his cousin’s house at dusk on Sunday. The men accused him of being happy that Israel had attacked Hamas, and they took him to the prime minister’s palace, which had been destroyed in an Israeli airstrike, he said. There they shot both of his legs just under the knee.

“It hurt like fire,” he said, pulling up the legs of his sweatpants to display thick bandages soaked with blood. He crawled to the road, he said, and someone gave him a ride to the hospital.
The motive for the shooting was not clear. The man said that he was a shoemaker and that he supported Fatah, but was not formally a member. The real target, he said, may have been his cousin, who is an activist in Fatah.

Some Fatah members said in interviews that some of those being sought had been singled out for having handed out sweets in celebration of Israel’s war on Hamas.

Nor was it clear how widespread the attacks were. Mr. Rabbo, the ally of the Palestinian president, said 200 people had been harassed and abused, but the human rights worker estimated that the number was much lower.

Many Fatah members and supporters said in interviews that Hamas might feel somewhat weakened by the Israeli offensive and was concerned that its political rivals not take advantage of the disorder created by the war.

The Palestinian human rights worker shared that view. “The internal security department is sending a very clear and strong message to Fatah to be quiet,” he said.

The shoemaker’s cousin, who actively supports Fatah, said that he had been moving from house to house after Hamas members searched his home on Sunday while he was out.“They’re afraid that Fatah will take advantage of the chaos to come back to power,” the cousin said. “The message is: Stay at home. Be afraid. We didn’t lose power.”

...Several people said Hamas had given children cellphone credits to keep tabs on them. They are called “drones,” and when they pass, everyone knows to stop talking, said a man in Bureij, a town south of Gaza City, who said he had been told by local Hamas supporters to stay inside his house....

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