Hamas militants threaten to wage civil war in return to the attacks on them. Palestinian authorities seem to get out of the frying pan into the fire amid pressure from Israel and the United States to crack down on militants.
Palestinian police and Hamas militants exchanged fire in a crowded Gaza City neighborhood on Friday, and at least two people were killed and 18 wounded in some of the worst fighting among Palestinians in recent years. Palestinian security forces were placed on high alert, reports the AP.
According to Al Bawaba, Palestinian medical sources said that seven people were wounded with gunshots north of Gaza City after clashes between Hamas militants and Palestinian police. Witnesses said that five Hamas activists and two pedestrians were wounded during the fire exchange with Palestinian security forces north of Gaza. They said that the fire exchange erupted when Palestinian security agents tried to prevent Hamas activists to shoot hand-made "Qassam" rockets into Jewish settlements in the area.
Later, Hamas activists set fire to three vehicles belonging to Palestinian Security, RNA reported.
In response to the attacks Palestinian Minister of Interior and national Security, Nasr Yousef stated on Thursday that the Palestinian Authority will impose order "even by force".
Friday's clashes came just hours after a rocket fired from Gaza killed an Israeli woman and Israel retaliated with helicopter missile strikes on several targets in Gaza. On Friday morning, six more rockets hit in and around the Israeli border town of Sderot, causing no injuries.
The recent escalation, set off earlier this week by a suicide bombing that killed five Israelis, is threatening to collapse a five-month-old truce. If fighting spins out of control, it could also endanger Abbas' rule and overshadow the planned Israeli withdrawal from Gaza next month. Israel has said it would not pull out of Gaza under fire.
The U.S. urged Abbas to take immediate action in order to put an end to attacks on Israelis by militant factions, Israel Radio reported on Friday.
The State Department said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke to the PA chairman on Thursday night on this matter, but no further details of the conversation were available. Assistant to the secretary of state David Welsh met with Abbas in Ramallah on Thursday and told him the U.S. demands that terror attacks on Israel be stopped immediately, according to Israel Radio.
Armed and masked Hamas men told reporters in Gaza City on Thursday, that the fighting could escalate into civil war. "We shall cut off the awful hand that attacked our fighters," one of the masked men said in an impromptu outdoor news conference, says the AP.
Before dawn Friday, Israeli helicopters fired missiles at four targets in three locations in Gaza, including buildings the army said were used for making rockets. The raids were Israel's first concerted action against Hamas, and the most widespread since the truce. No one was hurt.
The strikes came in response to a rocket attack on Nativ Haasara, an Israeli communal farm just outside Gaza. A rocket crashed through a porch roof and killed Dana Glakowitz, 22. Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a group linked to Hamas' Fatah movement, both claimed responsibility.