The Fatah and Hamas factions met at the official Muqata compound in the Palestinian capital Ramallah today, with President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh attempting to calm the situation after armed clashes between their supporters claimed at least ten lives over the past two weeks. (YNet, May 24)
Meanwhile, some 25 armored vehicles, accompanied by helicopters of the Israeli occupation forces, invaded Ramallah. Laying siege to one building in the city center, the occupation forces opened fire throughout the city, killing four Palestinians and injuring at least 40. The assault lasted two hours and was met by local Palestinian youths with stone-throwing.
The Israeli army claims they encountered heavy gun-fire, but eyewitnesses say that only two gunshots had been fired in the direction of the occupation forces. Three of the four killed had no affiliation with any armed resistance groups, Palestinian sources claim. Five Palestinians were arrested, among them Mohammed al-Shobaki, head of the armed wing of Islamic Jihad. According to sources at the Ramallah hospital, the Israeli forces prevented ambulances from reaching the wounded and the dead until their withdrawal. Residents also say the occupation forces caused extensive property damage in the incursion, smashing cars and shops. (Arab Monitor, May 24)
Meanwhile, violence continues in Gaza, where a gunfight between Palestinian security forces and the newly established Hamas militia left one (Fatah-loyal) police officer dead and four others wounded. Both Hamas and Fatah accused each other of starting the shootout. (YNet, May 24)
Gunmen also shot three Hamas followers after abducting them briefly in Gaza yesterday, medics and Hamas sources said. Hamas sources said that three unarmed men were kidnapped at dawn in the Gaza town of Khan Younis and dropped in a street a short time later with gunshot wounds. No group claimed responsibility for the shootings. (Lexpress, May 24) One of the men later died of his wounds. Also yesterday, Nabil Hodhod, a Gaza commander of the Fatah-loyal Preventive Security Service, was killed when his car blew up. Nobody claimed responsibility, but suspicion has fallen on Hamas. (Seattle Times, The Guardian, May 24)
One day earlier, on May 23, Israel’s military conducted a multi-service exercise to test its capability to launch an invasion of the Gaza Strip. The military’s Southern Command led the exercise, that included representatives of the army, navy and air force. Military sources said the exercise focused on the ability of the three services to communicate with each other and share situational awareness. “This does not mean we’re invading Gaza,” a military source said. “That’s a political decision. Our job is to be ready for anything.” (Middle East News Line, May 24)
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