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Attack on Hamas Politician Sparks Fighting in Gaza

Clashes erupted Friday between rival Palestinian factions after Hamas accused Fatah of trying to assassinate Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government. Two experts on the Middle East analyze Palestinian tensions.

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  • JONATHAN RUGMAN, ITV News Correspondent:

    Mayhem in Ramallah, Palestinians not fighting Israelis, but each other, their would-be Palestinians state hurtling towards what both sides acknowledge could be all-out civil war.

    Police and soldiers loyal to the president taking on protestors who support the prime minister; a power struggle between their parties boiling over onto the streets.

    These battles breaking out are for Hamas accused Fatah of trying to assassinate its prime minister.

    The trouble began last night, when Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was returning to Gaza via Egypt early, his attempt to stop more violence at home ironically making a bad situation worse, for hundreds of its Hamas supporters stormed the border crossing, after Israel, which has no troops here, nevertheless refused to let Haniyeh in.

    But a Hamas leader was carrying suitcases full of cash — some $35 million, reportedly — which Israel claimed to be used to fund attacks against it. Security forces loyal to President Abbas tried to keep the Hamas crowd back but failed, the violence leaving over 20 people wounded.

    Haniyeh was allowed in after leaving his money behind. That cash possibly from Iran, Qatar, or Sudan, the Hamas lifeline in the absence of direct aid from the U.S. or the E.U. But as the PM's heavily armed convoy sped into the night, it came under attack, wounding Haniyeh's son and killing one of his many bodyguards.

    By the time of that bodyguard's funeral in Gaza today, Hamas was putting out the word that one of President Abbas' most senior advisers had tried to have the prime minister assassinated.

    At Abbas, Hamas rally in Gaza City. Mr. Haniyeh showed up safe, though judging from his security posse, a man fearful for his life. Before a crowd of tens of thousands, the prime minister hinted at revenge, though he left it to one of his colleagues to be more brunt.

  • DR. KHALIL AL-HAYYA, Hamas MP, Gaza (through translator):

    Which war are you launching, Mahmoud Abbas? First you go against God, and then against Hamas.

  • MAHMOUD ZAHAR, Palestinian Foreign Minister:

    I think Mr. Abbas is undermining his credibility against the Palestinian people.


    One of the president's aides today denied any assassination conspiracy, yet thousands here may now believe otherwise, and the men of war are once again on Gaza's streets.