Clashes between Palestinian police and HAMAS supporters took place all over the past night in the Gaza strip. Two Palestinians were killed in the skirmishes, and eight were injured to various extent. Skirmishes took place in the town of Gaza, in the Jebalia refugee camp, and in Beit-Hanun, where police were trying to avert mortar shelling on Jewish settlements. The throng ransacked a police station in Der El-Balah. Clashes started after the Palestinian national authorities decided to start arresting HAMAS activists and close its offices in the Gaza strip. These measures are being held under a tough pressure from Israel, which demands to cease terrorist activities and arrest commanders implicated in terrorist acts. The Palestinian administration realises that the continuing terrorist acts in the Israeli towns are making a very unfavourable impression of Palestinians abroad. No-one can rule it out that after another act of terrorism, the US currently engaged in Middle East peacemaking will give a go-ahead to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to hold a "punitive " operation against the Palestinians. The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called recently for ceasing the armed struggle against Israel and the need to resume negotiations. He also ordered to hold arrests amid activists of HAMAS and the Islamic Jihad, another radical Palestinian organisation. Nevertheless, dozens, if not hundreds of thousands of radicals' supporters live in Gaza, and they are going to back them again. This was seen when police were trying to arrest Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a HAMAS leader. The crowd that arrived at the stage prevented the police from doing that. Many observers ascribe the popularity of HAMAS in Gaza to the fact that apart from firing at Jewish settlement and sending kamikaze terrorists to Israeli towns, this organisation provides significant aid for the families of killed terrorists, gives over food to the needy, etc. Besides, more and more Palestinians sincerely believe that there is no way to establish an independent Palestinian state beside armed struggle.
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