Hamas tightens grip on Gaza

Hamas has taken over the Gaza Strip. It stormed the last Fatah compound on the Gaza-Israel border, loyal to the head of the Palestinian Autonomy, Mahmoud Abbas. As a result, it now controls all the security positions in the Gaza Strip. The operation was c

Hamas has issued an ultimatum, saying Fatah gunmen should lay down weapons by 1900 local time on Thursday. Otherwise, the weapons will be taken by force. Hamas is also blaming the Palestinian security forces for being corrupt and made up of criminals.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the outbreak of violence, saying “the first step is to stop this chaos, this internal fighting, and to stop the bloodshed. I assure you that, not one party is blamed. I blame everyone who carries a gun and fires at his brother”.

For his part, Palestinian Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr, currently on a tour of Tokyo, warned the violence could spread to the West Bank if action to resolve the crisis was not taken immediately. 

“In order to salvage the situation, perhaps we need to go back to peace negotiations immediately. We need to resume economic assistance for the Palestinian people, we need to engage the Palestinians constructively, and we need to end a political siege. So this is the way to help the Palestinians,” he said.

Early on Wednesday the Fatah ministers suspended their activities, but stopped short of tearing apart the coalition. It is thought that Mr Abbas will make an important decision later on Thursday, pulling Fatah out of the unity government – a move that has been repeatedly threatened over the past few days.

Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets in protest at the worsening situation.

Some 65 people have died in the latest violence, which began on Saturday, with more than 24 people killed on Tuesday, in addition to two UN aid workers.

The United Nations now says it is scaling back its operations in Gaza. Although it says it is not pulling back, it is unable to feed the people who live there, and who rely on this food.

Meanwhile, the Arab League is meeting in Cairo in an attempt to find a resolution to the conflict.