GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – Hamas militiamen detained 32 Fatah supporters across Gaza, half of them after breaking up a bachelor’s party and beating guests with clubs and chairs, Fatah officials and witnesses said Saturday. Ten people were hurt.
After taking control of Gaza by force in June, Hamas had promised amnesty to Fatah loyalists and it was not immediately clear whether the arrests late Friday and early Saturday signaled the start a crackdown on Fatah or were isolated incidents.
In the northern town of Beit Hanoun, 15 Fatah supporters were arrested, Fatah said, after Hamas security men broke up a bachelor’s party for a Fatah loyalists on Friday.
TV footage showed a small outdoor stage, decorated with Palestinian flags and loudspeakers blaring Fatah songs in praise of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor, the late Yasser Arafat. Dozens of young men were in the area.
At one point, four jeeps carrying Hamas security drove toward the stage at high speed. The Hamas gunmen jumped off and marched toward the guests, firing in the air. Some hurled chairs and others wielded clubs, as most of the guests ran away. Several minutes later, one man is seen lying on the ground, apparently unconscious, as other guests tried to carry him away.
The Executive Force, the Hamas militia policing Gaza, said it stopped the celebration because guests shot in the air, disturbing the peace, and confirmed four arrests. Fatah activists denied anyone had fired in the air.
The Executive Force also claimed that Fatah members had fired toward a nearby Hamas police building. “We emphasize that we didn’t arrest anyone for his political afficiliation,” the Executive Force said in a statement. “The four were arrested for committing crimes.”
After the incident, about 150 women and youngsters marched to the headquarters of the Hamas police in Beit Hanoun. The protesters and security men yelled at each other, pushing and shoving.
Medics said that in all, 10 people were hurt in the confrontations.
Early Saturday, the cameraman who had filmed the incident was detained and released more than four hours later. His footage was broadcast on the West Bank-based Palestine TV. In a separate incident, near Abbassan village in southern Gaza, 12 Fatah supporters were arrested after Friday prayers, including a member of the municipal council, Fatah activists said.
Hamas had no comment on the incident.
Early Saturday, five unarmed members of Fatah’s militia, the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, were detained for five hours, beaten and released, Fatah officials said.