Sunday, August 3, 2008

Abbas, Israel, reverse policy on Fatah escapees from Gaza

Mahmoud Abbas first asked that the Fatah members fleeing Gaza be allowed to enter the West Bank, and then changed his mind it seems. Israel complied. It doesn't have to make sense. This is the Middle East.
 Last update - 12:09 03/08/2008       
Israel sends back Fatah men who fled Gaza clashes with Hamas
By Avi Issacharoff, Yuval Azoulay and Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondents and Reuters
Israel on Sunday returned to Gaza 32 members of a group of over 150 Fatah-linked men who had fled clashes with Hamas on Saturday, and was also planning to send the remaining men back to the coastal strip.
A Hamas official said the men returned were immediately detained by the Palestinian militant group's security forces.
Israel sent the group back on Sunday after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad withdrew an earlier request for Defense Minister Ehud Barak to allow the Gazans entry to Israel and then to transfer them to the West Bank.
The infighting with Hamas left at least nine people dead and more than 80 wounded.
Egypt was also a party to the PA's request on Saturday for Israel to allow entry to the men, who belong to the Hilles clan which is affiliated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction.
A spokesman for Barak said the wounded would remain in Israel for treatment and the rest would be returned to the Hamas-held territory.
Fatah leader Hussein Al-Shaikh, the senior civil affairs official in the Palestinian Authority, said: "We are discussing with the Israelis how to allow the people to return to Gaza."
Defense sources said it was likely that Fayyad and Abbas' backtracking is connected to power struggles within Fatah. The security establishment was examining on Sunday morning ways to ensure the safe return of the remaining men who fled Gaza.
"After the occupation refused to receive most of those who fled Gaza, dozens have returned and the Palestinian police have taken them into custody," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.
Saturday's fighting erupted when Hamas forces surrounded the Shejaia district of Gaza City to arrest 11 people suspected of a role in bombings that killed seven people, including five Hamas militants, on July 25.
Hamas security forces and members of the Hilles clan then exchanged mortar shell and machine gun fire all day Saturday in what was the most violent round yet of Hamas' weeklong crackdown of political rival Fatah.
Twelve of the wounded were children, hospital officials said, and eight people were in critical condition.

No comments: