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Tensions Flare Between Palestinian Factions in Gaza

By Robert Berger
14 December 2007

Violence has erupted between rival Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the newest outbreak underscores deep ideological differences two days after the resumption of peace talks with Israel.

Gunmen from the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas in Gaza stormed into the home of a senior official from the rival Fatah faction and arrested him. The arrested man, Omar al-Ghoul, is an adviser to moderate Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Hamas said he was arrested for "illegal activities."

Ghoul is the most senior Fatah politician to be detained since Hamas seized control of Gaza in June, when it routed the Fatah forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Adding to the tension, three mourners were killed in an explosion during a funeral for Fatah militants killed in an Israeli strike. Fatah blamed Hamas for the incident, but Hamas has denied it saying a gunman taking part in the procession accidentally dropped a grenade into the crowd.

Hanan Ashrawi, an independent Palestinian legislator in the West Bank, condemned the actions of Hamas in Gaza.

"It is criminal, it is unacceptable, but it's also extremely dangerous and we don't see a quick end in sight," said Ashrawi.

Tensions between the rival factions have escalated since President Abbas attended the Annapolis conference in the United States two weeks ago and agreed to resume peace talks with Israel. Hamas, which refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel, accuses Mr. Abbas of selling out the Palestinian cause.

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