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Fighting Ends in Gaza as Hamas Takes Control


Palestinian factional fighting in the Gaza Strip ended on Friday as Hamas Islamic militants completed their takeover of Fatah facilities. About 110 people, mostly militants, were killed in nearly a week of fighting between the two factions. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem that Hamas leaders say they will ignore decrees from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who on Friday named Salam Fayyad, a former world Bank official, as the new Palestinian prime minister.

For the first time in nearly a week, calm largely returned to the streets of the Gaza Strip, as Hamas militants completed their takeover of the territory by seizing the Gaza headquarters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Ismail Haniyeh, who Mr. Abbas dismissed as prime minister, says he will ignore the order and focus on restoring security.

Haniyeh says he has instructed the Hamas Executive Force militia to impose what he described as "quiet" in Gaza. He says the existing Palestinian government will continue to operate no matter what President Abbas says.

About 100 Fatah officials fled to Egypt early on Friday, but tensions eased considerably after Hamas announced an amnesty for senior Fatah commanders. Hamas leaders also say they will take over Gaza's border crossing with Egypt, which has been staffed by Fatah security officials, and monitored by observers from the European Union.

There was also widespread looting of ransacked Fatah facilities such as the Presidential Compound, and the former headquarters of the Fatah Preventative Security Force.

However, for the first time in several days Gazans were able to leave their homes to shop for food and other essentials.

John Ging, who directs the Gaza operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the Gaza Strip says U.N. operations, which were largely suspended, after two local U.N. employees were killed in the violence, have also resumed.

"It has been a dreadful time for us to keep our operations going and it is a great relief to us that the fighting has stopped," he said. "That will enable our brave staff to continue to work without risking their lives as they have been doing over the last number of days."

Meanwhile, western donor representatives and Israeli officials are debating whether to now ease sanctions on the West Bank that were imposed last year after Hamas won legislative elections in the Palestinian territories. Mr. Abbas has requested that Israel release frozen customs and tax duties it has collected.

Miri Eisen, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, says Israel is receptive to the idea.

"For us the difficulty was in the existence of this Hamas government that refused to recognize Israel or renounce terrorism," said Eisen. "By firing this government there is certainly a very strong opening for Israel to be able acknowledge, possibly also with the funds to be able to assist the moderates which Abu Mazen [President Abbas] is at the head of."

Eisen also says Israel has no plans to cut power or water to the Gaza Strip which is home to about 1.5 million Palestinians, who must now adapt to life under the complete control of Hamas.

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