9:04 am - Monday August 19, 2019

Gaza Explosions Hit Senior Fatah Members’ Homes

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TEL AVIV—Unidentified militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip bombed the homes of top officials of the Fatah movement on Friday, rekindling political tensions between the Palestinians’ two most powerful political factions.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the 14 nearly simultaneous bombings, which caused only minor property damage. But Fatah spokesman Fayez Abu Aita, whose car was damaged in a blast, immediately accused Hamas of being behind them, an allegation the group denied.

In addition to the explosions at the homes of Fatah officials, one bomb went off at the location of planned ceremonies next week to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, the former Palestinian Authority president, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Fatah’s founder.

Major General Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the Palestinian Authority security services, called it “strange and unbelievable” that so many explosions could have been detonated without Hamas’ prior knowledge. He blamed the bombings on a “gang” operating inside the Islamist political and militant movement.

Moussa Abu Marzook, a senior Hamas leader, condemned the bombings and insisted his group wasn’t involved. “We should not enable the groups that committed the crimes to achieve its targets,” he said.

Mr. Marzook provided no further details, but signs in recent days indicate Hamas is having difficulty controlling hard-line militants in the territory. Last Friday, a rocket was launched at Israel, which Hamas officials blamed on outside extremists that they said were later arrested.Earlier this year, Hamas and Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority-run West Bank, agreed to form an administration of technocrats to govern both Palestinian territories. Friday’s attacks dealt a blow to hopes of implementing that deal, which was delayed by Hamas’s 50-day war with Israel.

Citing safety concerns, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, a West Bank politician, immediately canceled his scheduled visit to the Gaza Strip next week. The trip was meant to complete a plan for the Palestinian Authority to take over control of Gaza’s border crossings from Hamas, one of the issues over which Fatah and Islamist group have clashed since the swearing-in of a unity government in June.

Mr. Abu Marzook urged Mr. Hamdallah to reschedule his visit, saying the attacks were the work of someone who wanted undermine the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal.

Fatah and Hamas have a long history of confrontation. A year after winning Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 on an anticorruption platform, Hamas forced Fatah out of Gaza in six days of often brutal street fighting that left at least 118 people dead, according to the International Committee for the Red Cross.

Since then, it has run Gaza independently, while Palestinian security forces have arrested Hamas members in the West Bank and handed over others to Israel’s security services.

Last month, the international community pledged $5.4 billion in aid to help rebuild the Gaza Strip after this summer’s war. Most of the donors, including the U.S. and the European Union, designate Hamas a terrorist group and want the Palestinian Authority to control the enclave before writing their checks.

Next week’s ceremony honoring the anniversary of Mr. Arafat’s death was intended by the Palestinian Authority as a sign of reconciliation after Hamas barred the annual celebration after its takeover of Gaza seven years ago.

Mr. Arafat’s nephew, Nasser Al Kidwa, said Friday it was uncertain whether the ceremony would go ahead as planned.

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