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Hamas Attack Kills Top Palestinian Security Officer January 4, 2007

Posted by notapundit in World News.
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RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP)–Six Palestinians, including a senior security officer, were killed and more than a dozen wounded Thursday in Gaza in a new wave of fighting between gunmen loyal to Hamas and those allied with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The widening chaos was driving ordinary Palestinians deeper into despair about their future.

The senior Palestinian security officer allied with Fatah was killed when Hamas militants laid siege to his house, engaging in a protracted gunbattle with his guards, and then attacked it with grenades and a dozen rockets, Palestinian officials and witnesses said.

The officer, Col. Mohammed Ghayeb, was the chief of the Preventive Security Service in northern Gaza, and his killing was expected to trigger revenge attacks by the men under his command.

Ghayeb was on the phone to Palestine TV just moments before his death and appealed for help as his house came under attack. “They are killers,” he said of the Hamas gunmen. “They are targeting the house, children are dying, they are bleeding. For God’s sake, send an ambulance, we want an ambulance, somebody move.”

The battle outside the house raged for much of the day and killed four of Ghayeb’s guards and a Hamas gunman as well. About three dozen people, including eight children, were also wounded.

During the standoff outside Ghayeb’s home in Beit Lahiya, dozens of women rushed into the streets in protest, chanting “Spare the bullets, shame, shame.”

One resident, Amina Abu Saher, told the local Al Quds radio station that it was difficult for her to see Palestinians fighting each other and said she and the other women were determined to stop the internal fighting.

The persistent factional fighting – large-scale confrontations began in Gaza a month ago – are a result of the political deadlock between Hamas, which controls the Cabinet, and Abbas, who was elected separately and also wields considerable power. Talks on power-sharing between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah movement have failed, while Hamas has threatened to block any attempt by Abbas to call early elections. With both sides hardening their positions, truce attempts have repeatedly collapsed.

Abbas met Thursday night with leaders of political factions in Gaza. The smaller Islamic Jihad group, which has stayed out of the fighting, was to propose another round of unity talks, this time between Abbas and Hamas’ supreme leader, Khaled Mashaal, rather than between lower-level envoys.

As the fighting worsened, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas cut short a tour of Arab nations and returned to Gaza Thursday. His next stop was to have been Jordan, which has offered to host a meeting between Haniyeh and Abbas, in an attempt to defuse the tensions.

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