PCHR strongly condemns the renewal of bloody internal clashes between members of Palestinian security forces and armed militias of Fatah and Hamas in different parts of the Gaza Strip. The renewed clashes resulted in the death of four Palestinians and the injury of thirty others, including three children. The Centre calls upon the Palestinian President and Government to fulfill their responsibilities towards putting an end to the security chaos plaguing the OPT in general and the Gaza Strip in particular.
In the early morning hours of Sunday, 13 May 2007, clashes ignited in different parts of the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of gunmen and members of security forces, most of them masked, deployed in main and side roads around the compounds of security forces. Tens of streets and roads were closed to pedestrians and vehicles. Gunmen exchanged fire indiscriminately in streets, at intersections, and from the roofs of buildings. The lives of innocent civilians were seriously threatened. Fear and panic spread among civilians, who remained inside their houses.
PCHR’s preliminary investigation indicates that infighting escalated Sunday morning (13 May 2007) after the death of two Palestinians, one of them Baha Abu Jarad (an activist of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Battalions, the armed wing of Fatah). And at approximately 14:30 on Sunday, gunmen wearing official uniforms traveling in a car intercepted a taxi carrying two journalists, Suliman Abdel Rahim El-Ashi (25) and Mohammad Matar Abdo (25), from Palestine Daily Newspaper. The taxi was traveling in Cairo Street in Tal El-Hawa Quarter in Gaza City. The gunmen abducted the journalists and took them to an undisclosed location. At approximately 16:30, the gunmen shot the journalists and threw them near Sheikh Zayed Mosque near Ansar Military Compound. El-Ashi was killed by a bullet to the chest. Abdo was hit by several bullets in the feet. He died of his wounds at in Shifa Hospital approximately 3:00 on Monday, 14 May 2007.
At approximately 15:00 on Sunday, masked gunmen in official uniforms and Fatah gunmen deployed in the western part of Gaza City and stopped pedestrians and cars. They took a number of people to an undisclosed location. And at approximately 16:30, the gunmen fired at some of these detained persons. Seven people were injured, one seriously. The injured were taken to Shifa Hospital for treatment.
In a development of the clashes, Fatah and Hamas abducted rival activists and leaders. However, they were released a few hours later without injury.
At approximately 20:00, the clashes spread to Sheja’eya and Daraj Quarters in Gaza City. Three people were injured, including two children. Heavy firing was heard in different parts of Gaza City.
At approximately 22:00, Hamas and Fatah representatives held a meeting under the auspices of the Egyptian Security Delegation in the Gaza Strip. Both sides agreed to withdraw gunmen and end all forms of militancy from the street effective 1:00 on Monday, 14 May 2007. Despite the announcement of this agreement, clashes erupted between both sides at approximately 3:00 on Monday around the residence of Maher Meqdad, a Fatah spokesman, in El-Maqousi area in the north of Gaza City. The clashes resulted in the death of two people:
In addition, 15 people were injured and taken to Shifa Hospital for treatment.
Clashes took place in other parts of the Gaza Strip. At approximately 23:00 on Sunday, unknown gunmen fired at a training compound of a new armed militia formed by Fatah. Three militia conscripts were injured in the compound located on Salah El-Deen Street near Deir El-Balah.
The situation in the Gaza Strip remains tense, and sporadic gunfire is reported in different areas. In addition, there is news of renewed abductions by both sides.
PCHR reiterates its strong condemnation of these bloody clashes, and:
1. Calls upon the President and Government to fulfill their legal and constitutional responsibilities, and to take immediate steps to restore order and security, and to protect civilians from the effects of these disgraceful clashes.
2. Calls for a serious investigation into all these incidents, and for the prosecution of the perpetrators regardless of their identity.
3. Views the main reason behind the renewal of clashes that previous crimes were overlooked, and the perpetrators were not brought to justice.
4. Condemns the killing of the two journalists, and calls upon the Attorney-General to seriously investigate this crime, which is a flagrant violation of freedom of expression, and to prosecute the perpetrators.
5. Calls for the withdrawal of all forms of militancy from streets, intersections, and residential buildings, including members of security forces and militias. The continuation of militant presence threatens the lives of innocent civilians.
6. Regrets the fact that political parties and their armed branches have become a burden on Palestinians instead of being in service of the people.
7. Calls upon the PLC to fulfill its responsibility in this critical juncture, and to fulfill its monitoring role over the Executive Branch with regards to establishing law and order.
 For more information, refer to PCHR’s security chaos field update dated 13 May 2007.