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Hamas And Fatah Exchange Fire Over Elections

From the DNC’s Al Jazeera:

Palestinian militants from the Fatah party, loyal to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, march and shout slogans in Gaza City. Abbas called for early elections in an escalating power struggle with the ruling Hamas movement, setting off fears that long-running factional tensions could ignite into full-blown civil war.

Violent clashes erupt in Gaza

At least 18 Palestinians have been wounded in the Gaza Strip after supporters of the ruling Hamas and Fatah traded fire during protests after Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, called for early elections, medics and witnesses say.

A Palestinian boy was killed when he was caught in a gunfight in Gaza City, medical sources said.

The boy, Ibrahim Musleh, 13, died of bullet wounds shortly after being taken to hospital, the sources said, adding that his grandmother was also wounded.

Thousands of armed Hamas and Fatah supporters staged competing protests in central Gaza City late on Saturday.

Demonstrations were also under way in the south and the north of the coastal strip. Several smaller protests were also staged in the West Bank.

Hamas has rejected Abbas’s call for elections, warning that it amounted to a call for "civil war" and vowed to fight the measure by bringing its supporters into the streets.

"Oh, Abu Mazen, oh spy!" chanted Hamas supporters, some of them masked and carrying the green flags of the movement and portraits of prime minister Ismail Haniya, in Gaza City.

"No, a hundred times not to early elections!" "Abu Mazen’s call is a provocation and a coup d’etat against legitimacy and democracy," a Hamas spokesman, Ismail Radwan, cried to the crowd, referring to Abbas by his widely used monicker.

"The government is not responsible for the boycott" of the international community."

Al Jazeera reports that the interior ministry had issued an arrest warrant against a local commander of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a resistance group loyal to Fatah.

Election call

Abbas said he decided to call for early presidential and parliamentary elections to resolve an unprecedented political crisis with ruling Hamas.

"I decided to call for early presidential and legislative elections," Abbas said to applause during an eagerly awaited speech in Ramallah on Saturday.

"Basic law stipulates that the people are the source of power. "Let the people have their say and decide. "I will talk as quickly as possible with the central elections commission to launch the preparations for the ballot."

Abbas dismissed warnings that the early polls would lead to civil war between the Palestinians.

He said: "Despite the suffering, the pain, the confrontations whoever is responsible for them, we will not allow ourselves to sink into a civil war.

"Palestinian blood will rest a border that will not be crossed."

Reviving the PLO Abbas expressed determination to keep the Palestinian Liberation Organisation as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

"Those who talk about the illegitimacy of the PLO’s executive committee are operating under its umbrella abroad."

The governing Hamas movement immediately rejected Abbas’s announcement.

Wasfi Kabha, the minister of prisoners affairs, said: "Our priority is to form a national unity government. It is the only solution. We reject anything which complicates the Palestinian situation."

Hamas, which surprised Fatah to win parliamentary elections in January, had earlier said it would regard any call for fresh elections as a coup. Abbas said he called for early elections to resolve the current political crisis.

Poll timing

A senior aide to Abbas said on Saturday that early elections could be held until the middle of next year for legal and technical reasons.

Saeb Erekat, a former negotiations minister, said Abbas first had to issue a presidential decree covering the early parliamentary and presidential polls. After that, voter rolls would need 90 days to be updated.

He said: "Technically, the elections cannot be held before mid-2007."

Abbas has also decided to appoint a new leadership committee for his Fatah Party, in apparent preparations for the elections, his office said.

Hamas has called for a demonstration after sunset prayers in Gaza City to condemn the call for early elections.

Why don’t we ever hear about this "civil war"?

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, December 16th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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