GAZA, (Reuters) – Rival Palestinian factions clashed in Gaza on Friday, killing two people, as the Islamist Hamas movement marked the first anniversary of its election victory over the once-dominant Fatah.
Fatah gunmen opened fire on a car of Hamas supporters who were calling on people to take part in a rally later on Friday to mark the anniversary, spokesman for the Hamas-led Gaza security force Islam Shahwan said.
Earlier, members of the same Hamas-led force shot dead a militant from the Fatah-linked Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade who they suspected was behind a bombing on Thursday night which killed a Hamas security official and critically wounded another, he said.
More than 30 Palestinians have been killed in fighting between rival groups since President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah called last month for presidential and parliamentary elections.
Hamas, which has struggled to govern since taking office in March under the weight of U.S.-led sanctions, has said any snap polls would amount to a coup.
Shahwan said five people were detained over Thursday night’s bombing, all of them from Fatah. Security forces also tried to arrest Nabil al-Jarjir of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades but he was killed after he refused to surrender and instead opened fire.
Fatah accused the Hamas-led security force of “executing” the activist.
The bomb blast wounded seven other people, hospital officials said. Three bystanders, including two children, were among those wounded, they added.
Fatah forces also abducted a Hamas gunmen and some of his relatives in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, Shahwan said, triggering more clashes.
Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal pledged on Sunday to curb Palestinian bloodshed after inconclusive talks to form a unity government which they hope could lift an international boycott imposed because of Hamas’ refusal to recognise Israel, renounce violence and abide by interim peace deals.
Hamas planned to hold a rally in Gaza on Friday to mark a year since its Jan. 25, 2006, victory over Fatah in Palestinian parliamentary elections.
In a statement issued ahead of the rally, Hamas acknowledged difficulties in the year since its election triumph. “Many of the programmes and the goals in which the government has started to implement have been hit and obstructed by the outside siege … and deprived our people of their salaries and food,” the statement said.
In a coded attack on Abbas it also criticised “attempts by internal forces to make the government fail.”
It added that formation of unity govenrment remained a “top priority”, but it would not abandon “the rights of our people, especially the right of return and the right of resistance.”