Gaza leaders struggle to bring feuding forces back from the brink

The Palestinian President and Prime Minister met twice yesterday in a desperate effort to drag their rival security forces back from the brink of civil war in the Gaza Strip. But with the rhetoric at fever pitch after the massacre of a local pro-Fatah commander and five of his bodyguards at his home on Thursday night, Fatah and Hamas sources doubted whether Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh would succeed for long in keeping the guns off the streets.

Thousands braved torrential rain and near-zero temperatures to follow the flag-draped bodies of Col Mohammed Ghayeb and his men to the grave. A masked militant fired bursts in the air and called for revenge. "The hand which fired against him and his comrades will be cut off," he shouted. A leaflet circulated in Gaza by Mr Abbas' Fatah threatened: "Blood for blood and aggression for aggression, and the aggressor will pay more." It added that there could be no dialogue "so long as Hamas continues to practise planned murder and organised terrorism".

It held Mr Haniyeh and his Interior Minister, Said Siyam, responsible for the killings. A Hamas spokesman replied by accusing Fatah of "inflaming events instead of calming them". Col Ghayeb was on the phone to Palestinian television as the Hamas forces stormed his home with rockets and grenades. "They are targeting the house, children are dying, they are bleeding," he screamed. "For God's sake, send an ambulance, we want an ambulance, somebody move!" Eight children and Col Ghayeb's wife were among about three dozen wounded.

After the first emergency meeting between the President and Prime Minister, Mr Haniyeh said they had agreed that armed displays would be forbidden and that an independent committee would investigate the breakdown of a truce agreed two weeks ago.

"There are serious problems, such as Jerusalem, the refugees and the separation fence," the Islamist Premier added. "We must put aside our disagreements and turn to dialogue to solve them, since we have no choice but to unite. The battle against the occupation is still long and brutal." The second meeting ended last night with no further statement.

Walid Awad, a senior Fatah official, saw little chance of ending the fratricidal violence or building a national-unity government. "Whether withdrawal from the streets of Gaza will happen is questionable," he said. "There isn't much discipline around there. The chances of a unity government are remote because the gap between the two sides is very big. It seems they are irreconcilable as things stand now." He predicted that either the Palestinian public would take to the streets and demand a solution from both sides, or Mr Abbas would go ahead with his threat to call early elections. This threat earlier provoked bloodshed. Hamas denounced it as a coup against its elected government.

The United States was yesterday reported to be preparing to invest $86m (£44m) to strengthen security forces loyal to Mr Abbas. Reuters quoted a leaked document as saying the money would be used to "assist the Palestinian Authority presidency in fulfilling its commitments to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and establish law and order in the West Bank and Gaza".

Ismail Radwan, a Hamas spokesman, condemned US intervention. "It will only escalate the differences and increase the internal conflict," he said. "But it will not achieve the American goal. Our people understand what is going on and are committed to unity against the Zionist enemy."

American officials in Jerusalem declined to confirm or deny the report, but European diplomats said the $86m would significantly strengthen Mr Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas. Since it is still subject to congressional approval, however, it will have no impact on the immediate crisis.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor