Parliament and government buildings attacked

Internal Palestinian fighting also in the West Bank

The bloody clashes between the former (Fatah) and the new Palestinian government (Hamas) have spread from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. The Palestinian police do not maintain internal order. It is closely allied with the Fatah movement and apparently refuses to protect citizens and government institutions effectively.

When a Palestinian motorist refused to stop at a Palestinian checkpoint on Ramallah’s city limits Tuesday night, officers opened fire. The man died. He was traveling in a stolen car and wanted to avoid an inspection," he said. The police, however, were expecting a "musta’arab," literally one who pretends to be an Arab. The "Musta’aribin" are furrowed Israeli intelligence units that operate in disguise. Just three weeks ago, one of these units shot dead three people in the middle of the busy city center.

To avenge the death of a driver from a refugee camp in Ramallah, Fatah-led residents raided high-end restaurants in Ramallah. They broke windows and shot up the establishment. The Palestinian police are equated with Fatah, the officers are mostly Fatah members and protect the interests of their movement. Hamas’ interior minister does not receive control over it, although provided for by law.

However, the police did not protect these restaurants and other establishments and were slow to move out even after the attacks became known. The reason could be that the attackers themselves belong to the Fatah base. Their refugee camp is known as a Fatah stronghold. Even as militants from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades attacked the office of Prime Minister Ismail Haniya (Hamas) and the parliament building in Ramallah on Monday night, police marched on too late. The Aqsa Brigades are the Armed Arm of Fatah. They threw the furniture out of the windows and set fire to it.

"The identities of the attackers are known to us," Haniya explained, "and the Interior Ministry will bring them to justice." He did not, however, outline how the Interior Secretary would proceed without police authority. Fatah supporters also attacked government buildings in Jenin and Salfit. The riots came in response to the Hamas raid on a police barracks in the southern Gaza Strip. This and subsequent racketeering claimed several lives.

On Wednesday, a protest procession of civilian officials marched to the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah. "We are hungry," they shouted. All officials have not received salaries since March, as the international donor community suspended payments to the Hamas government.

"We now have a clearer picture of the concocted conspiracy against us," Ismail Haniya said after attacks on government facilities in Ramallah. "The current clashes in our country are not a conflict between Hamas and Fatah," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Suhri explained, "but the result of attempts by certain former government officials to drown Palastina in a bloodbath."However, Haniya seemed to have gone too far with these exercises. In Gaza, he appeared before the press together with Muhammad Dahlan, the "strong man" of Fatah in the Gaza Strip. "We must restore our unity," Haniya said, "Palestinian blood must no longer be spilled."He also said he had reached an agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas (Fatah) to integrate the Hamas task force into the police force. It is not yet known whether this will be accompanied by a redistribution of command over the police.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military killed three members of Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip in their car with a rocket on Tuesday. A second bullet hit after helpers had already arrived. A total of 11 people died, including three children and an ambulance driver. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that Hamas ministers would also be targeted. "Those who support terrorist attacks," Olmert said, "will not be spared."Hamas called off its unilateral cease-fire, which has been in place since November 2004, on Friday after an Israeli shell killed a Palestinian family at a picnic. Israeli military not to blame for family’s death, own investigation finds. However, it has not yet been determined where one of the seven projectiles hit.

A high-ranking Israeli intelligence official told the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv that Israel was partly to blame for the end of the Hamas ceasefire. "Israel worked tirelessly to torpedo any effort by Hamas government," official says. The Palestinian people should be shown that Hamas cannot solve their problems.

Meanwhile, remarks by an adviser to Prime Minister Ismail Haniya raised hopes that Hamas would not carry out attacks inside Israel. "A new edition of the martyrdom operations does not serve the interests of the Palestinian government," Ahmad Jusef said in reference to suicide bombings in Israel. A mutual, long-term cease-fire is planned, but it does not require the recognition of Israel as a nation. "Israel doesn’t abide by the agreements it signs anyway," said Jusef.

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