Five killed during Arafat rally

Ibrahim Barzak,Ap
Monday 12 November 2007 11:00
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Five people have been killed in Gaza after Hamas security forces opened fire at a mass rally commemorating the death of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The rally is believed to be the largest public display of support for the rival Fatah movement since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June. Along with the five dead, at least 31 were wounded, medical officials and Fatah said.

Three of the wounded were critically injured, including a Hamas policeman who was shot in the head.

Monday's rally was Fatah's largest public gathering since Hamas overran the seaside strip in June, expelling the security forces of Fatah's leader, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The moderate Abbas, who now rules out of the West Bank, has been using the third anniversary of Arafat's death to rally support on the Palestinian streets. Abbas hopes to isolate Hamas as he moves to relaunch peace talks with Israel at a U.S.-hosted Mideast conference later this month.

Arafat, Fatah's founder, is still widely loved by Palestinians of all political beliefs.

Tens of thousands of Fatah supporters, carrying pictures of Arafat, yellow Fatah flags and wearing trademark black and white Arab headdresses, gathered in a large court in downtown Gaza City.

Hamas security officials said they fired toward protesters who threw stones at security compounds. Hamas police were positioned on rooftops around Gaza City, and protesters were seen running for cover at street corners.

Smoke was rising around the edges of the rally court yard, but thousands of supporters still milled around, as firing was heard from around the rally.

Eyewitnesses said Hamas gunmen roamed the streets later and started detaining protesters.

Hamas said the dead man was killed by Fatah gunmen who had fired from rooftops, but that could not be confirmed. A Fatah official said the dead man, a Fatah supporter, was shot on his way to the rally by a racing car, accusing Hamas of the shooting.

The Fatah official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Hamas said five of its policemen were injured, one seriously in the head, accusing Fatah gunmen.

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