GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip, (AP) -Five members of Hamas’ military wing who were kidnapped at gunpoint by rival Fatah Party loyalists in the Gaza Strip were released several hours later, a Palestinian mediator said early Tuesday, but tensions in Gaza remained high.
All of the hostages were released hours after being seized from their car in northern Gaza, according to Mohammed Madhoun of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a small organization that helped mediate the men’s release. Hamas confirmed that they had been freed.
There was no comment from Fatah.
A Hamas lawmaker from Beit Lahiya, Mushir al-Masri, cautioned after the kidnapping that the renewal of violence would only increase tensions between the two groups, which have been engaged in deadly confrontations in recent weeks.
“Tension and escalation will only serve the interests of the occupation and the coup-seekers,” he said.
The “coup-seekers” was a reference to Fatah, which seeks to replace the Hamas-led Cabinet with a more moderate Fatah-Hamas coalition that would induce the West and Israel to lift crippling economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority.
Fatah and Hamas have been in a vicious power struggle since the Islamic group defeated Fatah in parliamentary elections last year. Hamas controls the legislature and most government functions, while Fatah holds the powerful presidency.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas favors peace talks with Israel, while Hamas rejects the Jewish state’s right to exist. Abbas tried for months to persuade Hamas to join Fatah in a more moderate unity government, but negotiations collapsed in late November, touching off the latest round of infighting.