Israeli troops, backed by tanks and bulldozers, enter southern Gaza.
In Rafah, in the south of the territory, Hamas police fired bullets in the air to break up a gathering of would-be worshippers and made further arrests.
Executive Force members also used batons to disperse protesters in the north.
|Abbas joined Friday prayers in Ramallah in ‘solidarity with the people of Gaza’ [AFP]|
“We are trying to avoid any bloodshed and the putschists must not be provoked,” he said in a message via the official news agency.
Around 750 Fatah supporters gathered with Abbas in Ramallah for prayers in solidarity with Fatah in Gaza as thousands of Palestinians gathered at similar prayer rallies elsewhere in the West Bank.
Riyad Malki, Palestinian information minister, likened the Gaza protests to the beginnings of Palestinian uprisings against Israeli rule in 1987 and 2000.
“What we have seen today in Gaza is a new intifada against the Hamas occupation,” he said.
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s analyst, said: “This is not an intifada … This is a power struggle between occupied people, over who will control the prison (Gaza) – Fatah or Hamas.”
Hamas leaders, Gaza’s effective rulers, have banned public prayers saying they are politicised and aimed at deepening divisions in Palestinian society.
Islam Shahwan, spokesperson for the Hamas Executive Force, said: “We will not allow anyone to break the decision of the government and we will strike with an iron fist all those who try to sabotage public order.”
Odeh said a relgious ruling (fatwa) from Hamas-allied religious figures has backed the decision, calling those who attend the demonstrations “sinners”.
Meanwhile, clashes between the Israeli military and Palestinian fighters show no signs of lessening.
Soldiers killed six armed Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Thursday as they approached a military position intending to launch an attack, according to an Israeli army officer.
“Six Palestinians armed with assault rifles and grenades, who were approaching a military position in the Kissufim area, intending to attack, were killed during a combined air force and infantry action,” Colonel Shlomi Dahan said.
The incursion came a day after Israel‘s defence minister said a broad operation inside the territory was inevitable.