Palestinian police have fought a series of gun battles with militants in Gaza City, killing a police officer and two civilians, and wounding 50 others. The clashes are part of a power struggle between the militant group Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian police and Hamas militants fought gun battles in Gaza City. The fighting erupted after police tried to arrest the son of Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the late Hamas leader who was assassinated by Israel last year.
Witnesses say police stopped Mohammed Rantisi's car, but he refused to hand himself over. Police began shooting when they were surrounded by an angry crowd, sparking a firefight. Then, Hamas militants armed with rifles, rocket propelled grenades and hand grenades stormed several police stations.
The clashes point to a growing power struggle between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas since Israel pulled out of Gaza three weeks ago. So far, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has had little success in his efforts to restore law and order.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat accuses Hamas of acting like a "parallel authority." He told VOA:
"Seeking revenge or violence will only add to the complexities and will harm Palestinian interests," Mr. Erekat says.
The Palestinian Authority is under pressure from Israel to disarm militant groups, as demanded by the internationally-backed "road map" peace plan.
"We expect the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian leadership now to deal effectively with the terrorists," Israeli spokesman Mark Regev says.
Since Gaza is seen as a test case for Palestinian statehood, Mr. Abbas is anxious to show the world that he can restore the rule of law. But for now, the well-armed militants of Hamas rule the streets.