Abbas set to unveil new government

Fatah supporters seek revenge in the West Bank in the wake of Hamas's takeover of Gaza.

    Hamas fighters routed Palestinian security forces across the Gaza Strip on Thursday [AFP]

    In the West Bank city of Hebron, al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades fighters, an offshoot of Fatah, stormed government offices and set up checkpoints to search for Hamas members.
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    Members of the group have also destroyed offices at an Islamic school, a cultural centre, charities, local television and local radio in the city of Nablus in apparent revenge attacks, witnesses and Hamas officials said.
    Many Fatah supporters who live in Gaza fear reprisals from Hamas fighters.
    Hamas fighters are still searching for their Fatah rivals to seize their weapons and at least 200 Fatah men have already fled the territory, by land or sea to neighbouring Egypt.
    Israeli troops at the Erez checkpoint between Gaza and Israel fired warning shots at Palestinians who tried to cross into Israel to escape the violence.
    Looting had also continued including from Abbas's  bullet-scarred seafront presidential compound and the home of former president and Fatah leader Yasser Arafat.
    Technocrat government
    In a boost for Abbas, the US will lift a direct ban on aid to the government once the new administration is announced, a US envoy told Abbas during a meeting in the West Bank.
    The emergency government will have between 10 and 12 members and consist primarily of independent technocrats, he said.

    "Most crucial will be the position of the minister of interior who will be in charge of security in the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip if possible," Walid Batrawi, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Ramallah, said.

    "We might see some Fatah officials but, of course, none of the Hamas people because the Palestinian Authority and the president consider that Hamas has carried out a coup."

    Separation ruled out

    Ismail Haniya, the former prime minister who has refused to accept his firing, has ruled out setting up a separate state ruled by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

    Haniya has refused to accept his
    dismissal by Abbas [AFP]

    "Gaza belongs to all the Palestinian people and not just Hamas," he said in an interview with France's Le Figaro newspaper.
    "Separation is not on the agenda and never will be."

    Late on Friday, Khaled Meshaal, the exiled political leader of Hamas, called for dialogue with Abbas and Fatah.

    At a news conference in the Syrian capital Damascus, he said Hamas had no option but to use force to wrest control of Gaza in fighting that killed dozens of Palestinians.

    "What is needed now is to deal with the Palestinian schism. Hamas is for Arab sponsorship of a dialogue in the Palestinian national interest.


    "The lack of security drove the crisis toward explosion. What happened in Gaza was a necessary step. The people were suffering from chaos and lack of security and this treatment was needed."

    Meshaal called for the Palestinian security forces to be reorganised and said elements in Fatah that he did not want to identify were to blame for the lack of security in Gaza.

    "We need to restructure the Palestinian security apparatus to be a national force chosen according to merit and not on a factional basis," he said.

    Security challenges

    Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian MP, said the new cabinet faced daunting challenges, principally "to ensure the rule of law and to prevent the spread of lawlessness from Gaza to the West Bank".

    The security challenge was highlighted when the head of the Palestinian Authority police force, who is loyal to Abbas's Fatah faction, banned officers in Gaza from co-operating with the rival Hamas movement.

    "General Kamal al-Sheikh has ordered all police in the Gaza Strip to cease work and not to co-operate with the interior minister and the sacked government," a statement released on Saturday said.  

    "All those who disobey these orders will have to assume their responsibilities before the law and will be considered as mutineers who refuse direct orders from their hierarchy."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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