Hamas ‘in full control of Gaza’

Hamas says it has taken full control of the Gaza Strip, hours after President Mahmoud Abbas sacked the Hamas-led government and declared an emergency.

Hamas fighters secured the presidential compound in Gaza City after a week of fighting with Mr Abbas’ Fatah faction that has left more than 100 dead.

Mr Abbas says there will be a caretaker administration and early elections.

But PM Ismail Haniya, of Hamas, says his government will press on and he will impose decisive law and order.

Overnight the green flags of Hamas were flying over most parts of Gaza and Hamas supporters celebrated in the streets.

The Gaza Strip is an indivisible part of the homeland and its residents are an integral part of the Palestinian people

Ismail Haniya

Q&A: Gaza chaos

West Bank fears

Earlier Hamas fighters had overrun remaining Fatah positions including the headquarters of Fatah’s Preventative Security force and the presidential compound in Gaza City.

Fatah fighters were seen being led away, stripped to the waist, their fate unknown.

“All of the headquarters of the security services in the Gaza Strip are under control of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, including the presidency,” Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas’ armed wing, told the AFP news agency.

The BBC’s Matthew Price in Jerusalem says the West Bank and Gaza Strip will now effectively be split from one another – Gaza run by Hamas and the West Bank by Fatah.

map

We fully support [Mr Abbas] in his decisions to try to end this crisis for the Palestinian people

Condoleezza Rice

Rivals: Fatah and Hamas

Voices: Life under Hamas

But Mr Haniya rejected the notion of a separate Gaza state, saying: “The Gaza Strip is an indivisible part of the homeland and its residents are an integral part of the Palestinian people.”

He has said he will impose law and order decisively and legally.

But Mr Abbas said he would now rule by presidential decree until the conditions were right for elections.

There are new fears violence will spread to the West Bank, where Fatah is dominant.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, affiliated to Fatah, has called for “martial law” and the complete deployment of the Fatah movement.

It said its members “should consider the Hamas organisation in all areas of the West Bank as outlaws and stop any armed movement for them whatever it costs”.

Aid suspended

US President George W Bush said he was “profoundly concerned” over the deepening crisis and called for a halt to the violence.

Sacked Prime Minister Ismail Haniya

Sacked PM Ismail Haniya said Mr Abbas’ decision was hasty

His Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave her backing to Mr Abbas, saying he had exercised his “lawful authority”.

“We fully support him in his decisions to try to end this crisis for the Palestinian people and to give them an opportunity to return to peace and a better future,” she said.

UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett also expressed regret over the dissolution of the government.

“Once again extremists carrying guns have prevented progress against the wishes of the majority who seek a peaceful two-state solution,” she said.

The crisis has also prompted the European Commission to suspend humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas won a surprise victory in Palestinian elections in early 2006 but has since been engaged in a violent power struggle with Fatah.

Hamas, an Islamic organisation, rose to prominence in Gaza during two Palestinian uprisings and refuses to recognise or negotiate with Israel.

Fatah, a secular political grouping headed by Mr Abbas, ran the Palestinian Authority until 2006 and officially recognises the Jewish state.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/6755299.stm

Published: 2007/06/15 04:52:42 GMT

© BBC MMVII

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