GAZA (Reuters) - It’s payback time in Gaza, where victorious Hamas gunmen dragged the body of one of their main Fatah opponents through a refugee camp on Thursday.
Hamas’s armed wing said it had “executed” leading Fatah militant Samih al-Madhoun, who had previously broadcast a pledge to kill all members of the Islamist movement.
Several security officers loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s secular Fatah faction were fleeing Gaza City as Islamist Hamas death squads roamed the streets.
A Hamas source said Madhoun, who had topped the group’s wanted list of Abbas loyalists and had spearheaded Fatah’s fight against Hamas, was shot six times in the chest.
Witnesses said Hamas supporters paraded his body through the streets of Nusseirat refugee camp.
At least 30 people were killed as Hamas routed Fatah in the Gaza Strip capturing most major security compounds from Abbas’s forces throughout the coastal territory.
After the battles, Hamas men hunted down their foes, blowing up their houses and taking over buildings used by Fatah-run civilian organizations, witnesses said.
“That’s him, kill him,” shouted a masked gunman after identifying a member of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Hamas gunmen shot dead another Fatah man they said was wanted for killing one of their comrades a few weeks ago.
One Fatah member, who called himself Ahmed, said Hamas gunmen had killed eight of his friends: “I escaped by a miracle. Hamas is carrying out an execution campaign against us.”
Hamas militants swept through Gaza City neighborhoods, searching residential buildings for Fatah loyalists. One Hamas source said the hunt was to eliminate “collaborators”, not to exact revenge.
“Those marked for death are only those who massacred our civilians and our fighters. Those who are to be killed are those who helped the Zionist enemy against us,” he said.
Hamas gunmen deployed near the Rafah border crossing with Egypt to the south and the Israeli-manned Erez crossing in the north to prevent any Fatah officials from escaping.
“Qassam Brigades are now chasing Tawfiq Abu Khoussa....We heard that Mansour Shalayel is hiding in Mushtaha building,” cried a voice on an open Hamas radio wave-band.
“We will allow no traitor to leave the Strip,” a spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing said.
Some Fatah gunmen retaliated in the West Bank, shooting and wounding a Hamas man near Ramallah and seizing Hamas supporters in the towns of Jenin and Nablus. They stormed a Hamas office in Nablus and hurled computers out of the window.
Even businesses believed to be owned by Hamas supporters were targeted by angry crowds in the West Bank.
In Gaza, Hamas leaders and Muslim clerics issued edicts over the group’s radio and television stations describing the battle as “a war between Islam and non-believers”.
“Whoever killed will be killed,” said top Hamas official Nizar Rayyan.
“There is no Fatah any more, there is no dialogue with Fatah any more. It is only the rifle between us and them,” he added.
Many ordinary Palestinians feared Hamas would embark on widespread reprisals after years of enmity with Fatah.
“We are afraid of a Hamas campaign to eliminate the Fatah presence,” said Gaza teacher Ali Hamdoun. “I see no solution, only more bloodshed to come.”