Palestinian security forces rule the streets after clashes between them and Palestinian citizens in the West Bank city of Jenin, 16 December 2006. (MaanImages/Raed Abu Baker)
The undersigned Palestinian human rights NGOs express their grave concern over the deterioration in the internal security situation, which has mounted to the peak in the past few days due to the political tension between Hamas and Fatah movements resulted from the failure of the two movements to agree on the formation of a national unity government.
Tension between the two movements has escalated since Thursday, 14 December 2006, in light of mutual accusations for responsibility for the failure to reach an agreement on the formation of a national unity government. Such tension has been demonstrated in an escalation in attacks and violent actions in various areas in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). On Thursday evening, thousands of Hamas’ supporters, escorted by armed members of the Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades (the armed wing of Hamas) and the Executive Force of the Ministry of Interior, broke into Rafah International Crossing Point, which is guarded by the Palestinian Presidential Security Forces, when they heard news that Israeli Occupation Forces closed the crossing point in order to prevent Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya from traveling back to the Gaza Strip. Armed clashes erupted between the raiders and the Presidential Security Forces. As a result of these clashes, 13 persons (three children, four members of the Presidential Security Forces, two members of the Executive Force and four civilians) were wounded. At approximately 22:30 also on Thursday, when Prime Minister Haniya left the arrival hall of the crossing point, his convoy was fired at from an unknown source. One of his bodyguards was killed, and his son and one of his advisors were wounded.
On Friday morning, 15 December 2006, tension escalated between the two sides and some Palestinian towns witnessed demonstrations that were characterized by the presence of gunmen and exchanges of fire. In Ramallah, members of the Presidential Security Forces and gunmen wearing civilian clothes attacked a demonstration organized by Hamas’ supporters near Jamal Abdul Nassser Mosque following the Friday Prayer. At least 30 people were injured.
The crisis between the two sides further escalated following Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbass’ call for early presidential and parliamentary elections in his speech to the Palestinian people on Saturday noon, 16 December 2006. Hamas has refused this call for early elections. Hamas and Fatah movements called on their supporters to go into the streets to demonstrate in protest or support for President Abbas’ decision.
On Saturday evening, the two movements organized demonstrations in most areas in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Armed persons from the two movements were intensively deployed in the streets, which led to armed clashes between the two sides. A number of persons were wounded.
On Sunday morning, 17 December 2006, an armed group stormed a training site of the Presidential Security Forces in the south of Gaza City. The group fired live bullets and RBJ ammunition at the site, killing a security man. A few hours later, a number of gunmen broke into offices of the Ministries of Agriculture and Transportation in Gaza City and closed them. Later, a number of gunmen fired at the convoy of Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahhar. Tension has spread over the OPT, and there are serious concerns of further escalation in internal violence.
The undersigned human rights NGOs express their deep concerns over such tension and its destructive impacts on the Palestinian society, which would threaten the safety and security of people, and:
1. Call upon all parties to resort to rational thinking and avoid the use of violence and weapons in internal differences.
2. Call upon the Palestinian National Authority, represented by both the presidency and the government, to assume their national responsibilities under the current critical conditions, and absolutely reject the exportation of crises and authority conflicts between the presidency and the government to the society, which threatens the structure of the Palestinian society and the security of its members.
3. Call upon all nationalist and Islamic factions to make efforts to contain the existing tension and enforce the rule of law.
4. Express their utmost concern over the increasing use of weapons by Palestinian armed groups and security services, which is part of the state of security chaos and misuse of weapons.
5. Call upon the Attorney-General to immediately and seriously investigate all attacks on the rule of law and bring their perpetrators to justice whatever their identities or affiliations are, and call for the formation of judicial committees to investigate the current incidents.