GAZA, (Reuters) – Hamas and Fatah militants clashed in the Gaza Strip on Friday and at least two militants and a young boy were injured, Palestinian security sources and local residents said.
Tensions are running high in Gaza despite the formation of a unity government on March 17 between the ruling Islamist Hamas movement and President Mahmoud Abbas’s secular Fatah faction.
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said his cabinet would hold a special meeting on Saturday to discuss a new security plan aimed at stemming factional fighting and growing lawlessness within 100 days.
Haniyeh offered no details about the plan, drawn up by Interior Minister Hani al-Qawasmi.
Haniyeh accused the United States of fuelling the tensions by refusing to lift economic sanctions that prevent local, regional and international banks from transferring funds directly to the government.
“The banks refused to deal with us and they are still refusing (to deal with the government) because of American gang-like actions,” Haniyeh said.
Friday’s gunbattle in the Gaza town of Khan Younis left at least one member of Hamas and one member of Fatah injured, local residents and rescue workers said.
A hand grenade that was thrown during the fighting slightly injured a young boy. The house of a Hamas member was also torched.
Both sides said the fighting started when a Hamas member posted an Islamist pamphlet near a mosque loyal to Fatah.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, an estimated 2,000 Hamas supporters rallied in support of Hamas leaders who have been killed by Israel. The crowds carried green Hamas flags and chanted pro-Hamas slogans.
At least three Palestinians have been killed in factional fighting in the Gaza Strip since the unity government was formed.
The Quartet of Middle East mediators — the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations — has demanded that the Palestinian government recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept interim peace agreements with Israel.
The unity government’s programme contains a promise to “respect” previous Israeli-Palestinian pacts but does not call for recognising Israel and says resistance against the Jewish state in “all its forms” is a legitimate right.
Haniyeh brushed aside U.S., Israeli and European demands that Hamas recognise Israel. “The siege must be lifted,” Haniyeh said.