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Hamas forces cancellation of Arafat memorial in Gaza

Days after series of explosions rocks Strip, group says it informed Fatah it could not provide security for the event

Palestinians walk past a mural depicting late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the Shati Refugee Camp, in Gaza City, on November 7, 2013 (AP/Adel Hana)
Palestinians walk past a mural depicting late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the Shati Refugee Camp, in Gaza City, on November 7, 2013 (AP/Adel Hana)

Hamas on Sunday forced the cancellation of a memorial ceremony in the Gaza Strip that was to have marked the 10th anniversary of the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The decision illustrated continuing tensions between Hamas and Arafat’s Fatah movement — despite the formation of a unity government that was meant to end years of hostilities between the rival factions.

In an announcement, the Gazan Interior Ministry, which is still dominated by Hamas, said it had informed Fatah it could not provide security for the rally.

The rally would have been the first time Fatah has marked the anniversary in the Gaza Strip since 2007 — the year that Hamas seized control of the area. At that previous rally, just months after the Hamas takeover of the Strip, 10 people were killed in clashes that erupted.

Last week, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah canceled a visit to the Gaza after a wave of bombings hit Fatah property in the territory, government spokesman Ihab Bseiso said.

Hamdallah had been due Saturday to meet in Gaza with the European Union’s new foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini. But early on Friday, at least 10 explosions hit houses and cars belonging to members of Fatah.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. However, Hussein al-Sheikh, a member of the Fatah leadership, said he had “no doubt of the fact that Hamas bears the responsibility for what happened to Fatah leaders in Gaza.”

Hamas, on its part, was quick to condemn Friday’s pre-dawn attacks but Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad, in charge of his party’s reconciliation team, said that “does not absolve Hamas from bearing full responsibility.”

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