Vol. 5 Num 926 Sat. January 06, 2007  

Abbas, Haniyeh agree to defuse tensions in Gaza
US to give $86m for Palestinians

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said yesterday he and President Mahmoud Abbas had agreed to keep gunmen from their rival Hamas and Fatah factions off Gaza's streets after clashes in which eight were killed.

Factional fighting has surged in Gaza and the occupied West Bank since Abbas challenged the ruling Hamas faction by calling for early parliamentary and presidential elections after talks on forming a unity government failed.

After late-night emergency talks, Haniyeh said he and Abbas had agreed to "withdraw all gunmen from the streets and deploy police forces to keep law and order."

Abbas made no public comment, but a diplomat who attended the talks and declined to be identified confirmed an agreement had been reached. It was the first meeting between Abbas and Haniyeh in two months.

Similar pacts in the past have been shattered swiftly by violence and Gazans said they feared another eruption of bloodshed later in the day when Thursday's dead are buried.

In a move that could fuel tensions, the United States will provide $86 million to strengthen security forces loyal to Abbas, expanding US involvement in Fatah's power struggle with Hamas.

In fighting between rival Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, a policeman loyal to Haniyeh's governing Hamas movement was killed by Fatah gunmen.

Blaming the shooting on bodyguards of Colonel Mohammed Ghareeb of the Preventive Security Service, Hamas gunmen then besieged his home in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, killing Ghareeb and six of his men and wounding his wife,

Clashes also erupted in the nearby Jabalya refugee camp, where at least 30 people were wounded, hospital officials said.

The fighting spread overnight to the occupied West Bank, where unidentified gunmen critically wounded a Hamas activist near the city of Nablus, Hamas officials said.

Also on Friday, Israeli forces raided the village of Attil near the West Bank town of Tulkarm in a search for a wanted Islamic Jihad militant, witnesses said.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration will provide $86 million to help security forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, expanding US involvement in his struggle with Hamas, according to documents seen on Friday.

The US money will be used to "assist the Palestinian Authority presidency in fulfilling PA commitments under the road map (peace plan) to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and establish law and order in the West Bank and Gaza," according to a US government document.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya (L) meets with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas late Thursday in Gaza City. It was the first meeting of the two leaders in two months to discuss the deteriorating situation and factional fighting in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. PHOTO: AFP