Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was welcomed as a hero in Gaza, the day after he survived an alleged attempt on his life. There was tight security as Haniyeh greeted supporters who had gathered to mark the 19th anniversary of the creation of Hamas. In control of the Palestinian Authority, the group is locked in a power struggle with the rival Fatah faction of President Mahmoud Abbas.
With tensions at their highest in a decade, Haniyeh issued a call for unity. Other speakers however were less conciliatory. One accused President Abbas of starting a war. Hamas claims another senior Fatah figure tried to have the premier assassinated – a claim that is denied. Gunfire broke out on Thursday night as Haniyeh re-entered Gaza after a trip abroad. One of his bodyguards died and his son was wounded.
The turmoil spread to the West Bank on Friday. In Ramallah, security forces loyal to Fatah clashed with Hamas supporters – 32 of whom were reportedly injured by gunfire. Firefights also erupted in Gaza – heightening fears of civil war. The crisis could intensify on Saturday when Abbas might announce early elections, which Hamas leaders oppose. Israel is not directly involved but its decision to prevent Haniyeh taking 26 million euros worth of cash into Gaza intensified the stand-off in which the premier’s convoy came under fire.