Hamas accuses Fatah over attack

Tensions escalate in Gaza as Hamas accuses a Fatah leader of trying to kill the prime minister.

    Haniya sped from the scene in a pickup truck, with bodyguards surrounding him

    Another bodyguard, the prime minister's son and a political adviser were wounded.
     
    The attack came as Hamas prepared to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the organisation's founding on Friday.

     

    Assassin 'named'

     

    Rudwan said: "Mohammed Dahlan bears the direct responsibility for the assassination attempt which targeted the prime minister and he bears responsibility for the blood of the martyrs in the incident. 

     

    "The dirty hands which assassinated and wounded the bodyguards of the prime minister and attacked the prime minister's convoy will not escape punishment."

     

    Rudwan offered no evidence of Dahlan's involvement. He said the attempt on Haniya's life had been planned in advance and that the perpetrators had received order from foreign parties.

     

    Dahlan was not immediately available to comment. Tawfiq Abu Khoussa, Fatah's spokesman in Gaza and the West Bank, rejected Hamas's accusations.

     

    He said: "Fatah has condemned the incident and is demanding the formation of an official investigation committee."

     

    Rudwan called on Abbas to remove his presidential guard, Force 17, from the streets of the Gaza Strip and from the Rafah crossing.

     

    Abbas has said he "regretted" the attack.

     

    Money transported

     

    Haniya was returning from a regional tour and had raised an estimated $35 million in aid. Israeli border security prevented him from bringing the money into Gaza.

     

    Hamas security forces later seized control of the crossing, which is regularly closed by Israel leaving thousands of Palestinians stranded in Egypt or stuck within the territory. Twenty people were wounded.

     

    Haniya's convoy sped away after the attack and officials said he was unharmed.

     

    Haniya said: "We know the party that shot directly at our cars... and we also know how to deal with this."

     

    Haniya cut short a trip abroad in order to return to Gaza to quell recent conflict between Hamas and Fatah.

     

    But Israel closed the Rafah border shortly after he arrived at an airport nearby.

     

    His delegation was held at the border for about seven hours as Israel blocked him from bringing the cash into Gaza.

     

    He was finally allowed to cross late on Thursday night, but was forced to leave the money behind. The money is needed by the Palestinian government to pay salaries after Israel, the US and the EU imposed an economic blockade.

     

    Maria Telleria, a spokeswoman for European monitors at the crossing, said Haniya left the funds in Egypt.

     

    Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, said: "The money he was carrying is not across the border, it is now in a bank in Egypt."

     

    Rafah terminal storm

     

    At least 20 people were wounded in clashes at the border between armed men from Hamas and the rival Fatah faction of Abbas, the Palestinian president.

     

    Hamas fighters, angry that Israel was preventing Haniya from returning, stormed the terminal.

     

    The pro-Fatah presidential guard, responsible for securing the area, opened fire.

     

    The European monitors who police the crossing fled.

     

    'Let's liberate this place'

     

    Hamas security officials chanted "God is Great, let's liberate this place" as they took over the arrival hall, and border guards escorted the European monitors to safety.

     

    More than 50 men greeted Haniya

    Two loud explosions rocked the area, and security officials said Hamas officials blew a hole in the border fence about half a mile from the terminal.

     

    Thursday's unrest is likely to strain the US-brokered deal that turned over control of the crossing to the Palestinians last year after four decades of Israeli control. The border can only operate in the presence of European monitors.

     

    A senior Israeli security official said Amir Peretz, the Israeli defence minister, had ordered the border to be closed not to block Haniya's entry but to keep the money out.

     

    Haniya left Gaza on November 28 for what was supposed to be a month-long trip around the region, with the goal of raising money for his government.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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