“We don’t need either Hamas or Fatah”

A Palestinian inspects a burnt building inside the Islamic University after it was attacked in Gaza City, 3 January 2007. (MaanImages/Wesam Saleh)

Internal unrest in Gaza City since last Thursday, manifested in clashes between Fatah and Hamas supporters, has claimed 25 lives, wounded dozens of others and caused destruction to many public infrastructure such as universities and governmental buildings. Movement in Gaza city is almost paralyzed.

The United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA) announced it would keep all its schools closed starting from February 3 until calm is restored.

The Palestinian Authority institutions were almost empty on Saturday, as employees refrained from going to places of work out of fear they might come across fire.

Fathi Tobail, director of Translation Department at the State Information Service, told IMEMC that he had no employees today, following the Friday ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Fatah, as clashes renewed in Gaza despite the announcement.

Most of the shops in the city were closed today as streets appeared almost empty of passersby, but gunmen were omnipresent — either official security personnel, Fatah militants or Hamas’ executive force.

A local Gaza resident, who declined to give his name, told IMEMC, “This is an unbearable situation as we can not sleep, walk or live. Why they are fighting? For the power? Where is this power? While we are besieged, while our economy is deteriorating … we don’t need either Hamas or Fatah”

In many parts of Gaza, driving by car or walking on foot has become difficult as roadblocks are everywhere, as unknown militants check people’s identities on main roads in the city.

Iyad Jbara, was driving to the al-Shifa hospital to check on his wounded brother, told IMEMC, “While I was driving by the Gaza coastal road on my way to the al-Shifa hospital, a group of militants with military uniforms stopped me and asked for my ID. I was nervous with concern about my brother who was lying in the hospital. I screamed at them, ‘Who are you ? I am going to the hospital, what’s wrong?’”

Iyad’s brother, a policeman, was hit with shrapnel in the chest during a gun battle at the al-Yarmouk police center in Gaza early on Friday morning.

Current clashes in Gaza broke out after members of the executive force, belonging to the interior ministry, blocked a Presidential force convoy at the Salaheddin main road in the central Gaza Strip, believing the convoy was carrying weapons delivered by an Arab country through the Egyptian borders. Both Egypt and the Palestinian presidency denied the allegations.

Factional infighting in Gaza have been taking place with frequency since last December, when President Mahmoud Abbas called for early presidential and parliamentary elections to put an end to failed unity government talks and almost 10-month-old international economic embargo since the Hamas-led government was installed after last January’s legislative elections.

Rami Almeghari is a freelance journalist and translator in the Gaza Strip. He may be reached at rami_almeghari@hotmail.com