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About 40 Palestinian policemen broke into the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza City on October 3, firing in the air to protest what they said was the humiliation police are facing because of attacks by Hamas militants.

The storming came one day after fierce clashes between police and Hamas in Gaza City and the nearby Shati refugee camp, during which Hamas gunmen attacked the local police station with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. The camp’s deputy police chief, Ali Makawi, was killed in the fighting.

Israel Radio reported that the police involved in the incident are members of Makawi’s unit.

The police stormed a meeting of Palestinian legislators, convened for the purpose of discussing the state of Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei’s (Abu Ala) government. They voted October 3 that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) must form a new government within two weeks.

The proposal, presented by the parliament speaker, was adopted by a vote of 43-5. The legislators largely endorsed a parliamentary committee’s report criticizing Qurei’s cabinet for its handling of factional anarchy. However, they stopped short of a no-confidence vote.

“I call on the Palestinian people to go out into the streets to demonstrate both against the Palestinian Authority and against the factions,” said legislator Freih Abu Medein from Abbas’ ruling Fatah party.

The protesting officers did not enter the chamber in which the meeting was taking place. They were promptly removed from the parliament and continued to shoot in the air outside the building.

“Yesterday, we did not have enough bullets,” said one of the protesting policemen. “We had nothing to protect ourselves. Give us as least bullets to protect people and to protect our stations,” he said. “Our commander died in front of us, and we were running out of bullets.”

“We want the PA to take a stand on Hamas. Our blood is flowing for the Authority and they are not doing anything,” one officer dressed in black told Reuters.

Abbas said October 3 that his security forces would not gloss over the confrontations with Hamas. “We will not remain silent in the face of this,” he told reporters at his Gaza City office. “This mob behavior, this chaos must end.” The authority, he said, is “ready to use all means to prevent the public display of arms,” which it banned several days ago.

A United States State Department spokesman supported Abbas’s attempt to crack down on the militants. “We have welcomed recent steps by President Abbas to implement a strategy that outlaws the public display of arms…end violence and dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

The clashes raged for about six hours, and subsided only around midnight on October 2, after Egyptian mediators stepped in. It was the fiercest internal fighting since 1996, when the PA clamped down on Hamas and carried out mass arrests, in response to a series of suicide bombings in Israel.

On October 3, each side was heard blaming the other for the fighting.

The Palestinian Interior Ministry, in charge of the security forces, said the fighting started with an argument between two men waiting in a long line at a cash machine outside a Gaza City bank. One of the men called in Hamas gunmen for support, police rushed to the scene and a gunfight erupted, the Interior Ministry said.

Hamas said the confrontation began when police tried to arrest Mohammed Rantisi, a Hamas activist and son of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi, who was killed in a targeted Israeli missile strike on his car in 2004. Hamas claimed Mohammed Rantisi was unarmed.

The confrontation sparked gun battles all over the Sheikh Redwan neighborhood between Hamas operatives and policemen, with armed Fatah operatives joining in on the side of the police.

Later, the battle spread to Shati refugee camp west of Gaza, which, according to police sources, a policeman was killed. Hamas operatives also torched the Shati police station and several cars belonging to the Palestinian police.

Abbas said on October 3 that his security forces would not gloss over the clashes on October 2. “We will not remain silent in the face of this,” he told reporters at his office in Gaza. “This mob behavior, this chaos must end.”

Police beefed up security around police stations and sealed off access roads on October 3, causing massive traffic jams in already congested Gaza City.

Israeli officials said they were encouraged by the PA’s show of force, but that it was too early to judge whether this is the beginning of a crackdown on Hamas. “We can’t say after this isolated incident whether the real battle has begun,” said Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Dan Halutz.

Tension between Hamas and the Palestinian police has risen steadily over the past four days, due to the PA’s declaration that it will no longer allow arms to be carried in the streets. Hamas promptly announced that it had no intention of abiding by this order, and its leaders even accused the PA of trying to liquidate the organization.

On October 2, a senior Hamas official living in Damascus, Mohammed Nazel, reiterated this charge and threatened civil war in response. “There is a faction of the PA that is trying to eradicate the Hamas movement and plans a widespread conflict in the West Bank,” Nazel said. “The hands of this faction, which is backed by Washington and London, are stained with Palestinian blood, and Hamas will confront it, even at the price of civil war.”

(By Arnon Regular, Haaretz, www.haaretz.com, October 4, 2005)

PRAYER FOCUS
Pray that God will show His power and love in this region. The Palestinians fight among themselves, as they strive to gain a place in their society. Pray that God will move in individual hearts showing them that earthly answers to their heart cries will not bring the desired results, only surrender to God and His plans brings true fulfillment.

SCRIPTURE
“‘Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6b).