Hamas restores order in Gaza

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The Independent Online

Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader who took over as Palestinian Prime Minister last week, has restored a measure of order to the streets of Gaza after four people were killed in clashes provoked by the assassination of a Hamas military commander. Hamas had accused the Preventive Security Service, still loyal to the old Fatah regime, of complicity in Friday's killing.

Witnesses reported that rogue gunmen complied with the Prime Minister's call to keep their weapons out of sight. It was one of the first tests of the Islamist government's promise to end the disorder that dogged the last months of Fatah rule.

After Mr Haniyeh appointed a committee to investigate the car bombing that killed the commander, Abdel Karim Quqa, Fatah agreed to co-operate. Samir Masharawi, a party strongman and defeated candidate in the January elections, said: "We will do our best to prevent civil strife."

Observers said no one in Gaza wanted the crisis to escalate, but resentment still simmered below the surface. Mr Masharawi angrily denied charges that he and another Fatah leader, Mohammed Dahlan, were behind the Quqa assassination. "It seems," he said, "that the Hamas brothers have forgotten that they are now in power and are responsible for security."

Israel remained unimpressed by Mr Haniyeh's initiative. Mark Regev, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: "The fundamental problem from our point of view is the daily salvoes of al Qassam rockets on Israeli farming and urban communities in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip. This reached a climax on our election day last week when we had a higher-level rocket, a Katyusha, fired at Ashkelon.

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