Gaza Strip: Fatah supporters demonstrate against Hamas

Published August 24th, 2007 - 04:48 GMT

Hamas security forces on Friday beat journalists covering a rally held by the rival Fatah movement, briefly arresting four of them and confiscating their cameras. The Hamas men fired guns into the air and scuffled with Fatah members, who threw stones and bottles at a former Fatah security compound now controlled by Hamas. No injuries were reported.


Friday's scuffle took place in an open square in downtown Gaza City, called by Fatah activists who claim they are no longer welcomed in mosques following the Hamas takeover. The demonstrators marched toward the security compound and the scuffle broke out.


The Fatah followers shouted names of former leaders, like Mohammed Dahlan, who have been forced into exile. Others wore T-shirts with a photo of Samih Madhoun, a famous Fatah strongman killed by a crowd of Hamas supporters during five days of fighting in June that led to the Hamas takeover.


According to Reuters, a Fatah official called the demonstration "a clear sign that Fatah did not vanish with the Hamas coup." "People are against Hamas suppression of Fatah. Hamas thought it can eliminate Fatah -- they are wrong. Fatah is rising again," said the official.


When several Hamas security men roughed up a Reuters TV cameraman filming the protest and tried to confiscate his camera, protesters surrounded the Hamas men, beat them to the ground and prevented the cameraman's arrest. The demonstrators cursed the Hamas men, calling them "Shiites".


The Hamas men also detained a photographer working for Agence France Press and a cameraman for the Russian TV channel Russia Today, along with two other reporters working for local news channels. They also broke a TV camera belonging to the Arabic-language TV network al-Arabiya.


All four detained journalists were quickly freed, Hamas officials and witnesses said. They said they got their equipment back. Later, journalists staged a separate protest against the crackdown.


Khaled Bolbol, one of the local reporters detained, said he was abused and ordered to speak to Hamas' al-Aqsa television station. "I refused," he said. "I was beaten and stepped on ... I don't want to speak to (al-Aqsa ) TV or any other."


Islam Shahwan, spokesman for the Hamas security force, accused a small group of Fatah activists of "inciting chaos and bringing back the situation to lawlessness." "We allowed them to gather freely but they started to chant curses and attacked the security compound with stones," Shahwan said. He said Hamas "will not allow the situation to be repeated" and promised to arrest those behind the protest.



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