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Hamas Arrests Fatah Supporters After Deadly Gaza Bombing

The Islamic militant group Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip has launched a crackdown on its rivals after a deadly bomb attack. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Hamas has arrested dozens of supporters of the rival Palestinian Fatah faction in Gaza after a bomb blast killed five Hamas gunmen and a six-year-old girl. A senior Hamas military commander was among the dead.

Hamas blamed Fatah for the explosion. Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya is the father of a gunman who was wounded in the blast.

"This explosion shows that there is a group of traitors and mercenaries who want to destabilize Gaza," al-Hayya said. "Therefore I ask the authorities to hit them with an iron fist."

An unknown offshoot of Fatah, calling itself the "Awda Brigades" claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for the violent Hamas takeover of Gaza a year ago. Hamas routed the forces of Fatah leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who now heads a more moderate government in the West Bank. The office of Mr. Abbas issued a statement saying the bombing was part of an internal dispute within Hamas.

The deadly explosion was one of three in Gaza in less than 24 hours. Earlier, another bomb targeted the home of a Hamas lawmaker, but he was not hurt. Another explosion targeting a café was apparently carried out by a radical Islamic group that opposes western influences in Gaza.

In addition to the arrests of Fatah members, Hamas policemen set up checkpoints on major roads and searched cars.

Thousands of Hamas supporters attended the funerals of the slain gunmen, calling for revenge.