The Islamist Hamas movement on Saturday protested the killing of its members by the rival Fatah movement in the West Bank as its own Gaza-based security forces launched an overnight campaign of arrests against Fatah.
Around 2,200 female Hamas supporters protested against the West Bank-based Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas after a violent shootout Thursday night in town of Qalqilya between his police and Hamas left two Hamas members and a Palestinian policeman dead.
"No to Abbas, No to Fayyad," the women in Gaza City chanted, referring to Western-backed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who has launched a security crackdown in the Israeli-occupied West Bank over the past several months.
The women waved green Hamas flags and held signs reading "Abbas's security forces are the bodyguards of the Zionists" and "No dialogue with arrests in the West Bank." Earlier this week six people were killed in a similar shootout.
An investigation by the al-Haq human rights organisation published on Thursday said Hamas militants opened fire first on both occasions.
Fatah and Hamas trade accusations
Officials in Abbas's Fatah party accused Hamas-run security forces of detaining scores of its members in a campaign of arrests launched overnight.
"In Gaza the arrests and abductions against us continue," said Fahmi al-Zaarir, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank. "There are more than several dozen people wanted by Hamas and they began arresting them last night."
But senior Hamas leader Ahmed Bahar accused Abbas and Fayyad of treason for allegedly cooperating with Israel against the Islamist movement.
"You can either return to the Palestinian people and the dialogue in Cairo or you can continue your treachery in the embrace of the (Israeli) occupation," he told the crowd of protesters.
"But this occupation will never do anything for you. They will toss you aside as they have tossed aside others in the past," he said.
No to Abbas, No to Fayyad. Abbas's security forces are the bodyguards of the Zionists
Anti Fatah protest
The Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza said it was targeting "criminal and outlaw groups" accused of collecting information on its leaders and militant hideouts to sell to Abbas's Palestinian Authority and Israel.
It went on to accuse the groups of gathering information about political leaders and militant hideouts to pass along to Abbas's government in the West Bank and to Israel. It did not specify how many people had been detained.
The bitter divide between Hamas and Abbas's secular Fatah movement climaxed in June 2007 when Hamas gunmen drove Abbas's forces out of the Gaza Strip in a week of deadly street battles that cleaved Palestinians into hostile rival entities.
Since then each movement has accused its rival of political arrests and persecution in the territories under its control.
Maan News agency reported that Sheikh Nafez Azzam, a senior Islamic Jihad (Holy War) movement's leader said in a press statement that his movement is holding contacts with Fatah leadership to defuse the tension with Hamas movement in the West Bank and to contain the internal crisis.
"Both Fatah and Hamas should immediately stop mutual arrests in both Gaza and the West Bank in order to create a proper atmosphere to resume the national dialogue," said Azzam, adding "the issue of arrests, mainly in the West Bank would have destructive impact on the national reconciliation."
You can either return to the Palestinian people and the dialogue in Cairo or you can continue your treachery in the embrace of the (Israeli) occupation
Ahmad Bahar, senior Hamas leader