Hamas bans Fatah Friday prayers in Gaza
GAZA (Reuters) - Hamas on Tuesday banned open-air prayers organized by the rival Fatah faction in the Gaza Strip, gatherings that have turned into weekly protests against the territory's Islamist rulers.
Backed by a ruling by the pro-Hamas Palestine Clerics Federation, Hamas's Gaza-based government said it had "decided to prevent any gatherings under the pretext of Friday (Muslim) prayers".
In a statement, the Hamas administration said Fatah had used outdoor worship on the Muslim rest day to sow "chaos and sedition" in the Gaza Strip.
Over the past several weeks, Friday prayers organized by Fatah, headed by Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas, have led to clashes with Hamas security forces.
The clerics federation, in a religious edict, said the violence at the gatherings violated the sanctity of Friday worship.
Fatah officials said the faction planned to go ahead with open-air prayers this Friday despite the ban.
"No one has the right to intervene in people's worship," said Hazen Abu Shanab, a Fatah official in Gaza.
Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in fighting against Fatah in June. The Islamist group is shunned by the West for refusing to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals.
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