Senior Fatah officials detained by Hamas

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The Independent Online

Hamas forces detained three out of the four most senior Fatah officials left in Gaza yesterday as they used a heavy show of force to curb planned protests against the Islamic faction's two-and-a-half month-old regime in the Strip.

Some Fatah protesters were beaten with clubs by Hamas executive force personnel, though an earlier large-scale deployment of the force's armed men at street junctions helped to reduce Fatah's plans to hold a mass open air "prayer protest" in Gaza City.

Hamas announced a ban on such public prayers away from mosques earlier in the week. An appeal by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for supporters not to provoke violence may also have kept numbers down.

The three regional Fatah leaders, Ibrahim Abu Naja, Zakaria Agha, and Ahmad Nasser were taken to Gaza City's central police station, the Soraya pending what Hamas officials said was a legal process of investigation. They were detained attempting to repeat the prayer meeting outside the Qatiba mosque which erupted in violence last week.

As executive force members carrying clubs and AK 47s chased into the mosque a small number of protesters, and harrassed, hit and briefly confisacted the camaras of some Palestinian television journalists. One Fatah supporter was dragged to a police pick up and heavily beaten with clubs by several armed and uniformed Hamas men before being driven away, a stream of blood pouring down his face. One unformed force member shouted at protesters "I do not want to see you here. I can hit you all.

In Khan Younis, an explosive device was thrown by an unidentified assailant into the middle of the crowd, and hospital officials said four people were injured, including one by shrapnel.

Taher Nunu, spokesman for the de facto Hamas adminstration in Gaza said that despite the continuing tensions, he insisted that Hamas wanted dialogue with Fatah. and a return to a national unity government "when were partners in the Palestinian Legislative council and partmers in government."

Five journalists were briefly detained and one Mohammed abu Siddo, working for al Jazzera international said that he offered up his tape when a plain clothes Hamas force member grabbed his camera. But then, he said, three others joined in hitting them and took his camera, returning it without the tape. Mr Nunu insisted that the tape had been later returned and that such incidents would not be repeated.