Palestinian Parliament seized
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Palestinian Parliament seized

Fatah men stormed Parliament at their party's defeat by Hamas.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2006 19:46 IST

Firing into the air, Fatah gunmen stormed the Palestinian Parliament on Saturday in anger at their long-dominant party's crushing election defeat by Hamas Islamists.

Hamas leaders meanwhile rejected as "blackmail" Western demands that it renounce violence against Israel or risk losing aid cash vital to the survival of the Palestinian Authority. Hopes of peacemaking with Israel remained in limbo.

Unrest since the parliamentary election landslide has fueled fears of inter-Palestinian strife as Hamas tries to form a government and possibly take over security forces packed with Fatah loyalists long at odds with the Islamic militants.

Thousands of armed loyalists from President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah held protests across the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, many firing automatic rifles into the air.

They took over Parliament in the West Bank city of Ramallah for about 20 minutes, shouting demands from the roof before descending peacefully. Fatah militants joined by police also seized the Parliament building in the Gaza Strip.

Gunmen demanded that Fatah leaders resign over the election defeat, but also said the protest was to dissuade any thought of sharing power with Hamas or allowing the group to take over security forces.

"We will cut off the head of anyone who dares to sit in government with Hamas," shouted one Fatah gunman.

Firing as they went, Fatah militants moved into Abbas's Muqata compound and gathered at the graveside of Yasser Arafat, Fatah's founder and an icon for Palestinians. The gunmen demanded that Fatah leaders resign, though not Abbas himself.

In Gaza, where eight people were hurt on Friday in clashes between Fatah and Hamas activists, the gunmen were joined in their protest by police who oppose any Hamas control over security forces.

Fatah leaders have so far rejected joining any coalition with Hamas, though it could take weeks to form one.

Hamas leaders have said they could set up a government by themselves if need be, after winning votes from Palestinians tired with corruption and Fatah's failure to deliver a state, as well as supportive of a Hamas suicide bombing campaign.

First Published: Feb 09, 2006 19:46 IST