GAZA CITY – Officials of the Fatah faction said Tuesday that scores of its members were detained by Hamas after deadly violence marred a massive rally in the Gaza Strip a day earlier.
Fatah leaders said a wave of arrests in Gaza targeted activists, including ranking party figures, who had organized the memorial rally marking the third anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death. The gathering erupted in gunfire that left seven people dead and dozens hurt.
Hazem Abu Shanab, a Fatah spokesman in Gaza, said more than 400 party members were detained during raids in which Hamas security officers also seized computers and documents.
Fatah accused Hamas of opening fire on the crowd, which numbered in the tens of thousands – Fatah’s biggest gathering since losing control of Gaza five months ago. Hamas officials said the rival faction’s gunmen fired first from neighboring buildings.
Hamas officials accused the rally’s organizers of stoking public disorder, and said they were arresting those responsible. In a brief statement, the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza denied that the arrests were politically motivated.
The statement did not specify a number, but Reuters quoted Islam Shahwan, a spokesman for the Hamas-led Executive Force, as saying security officers had detained about 50 people.
The arrests began during Monday’s midday rally and continued overnight.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning for victims of Monday’s fighting and ordered flags flown at half-staff on government buildings.