Palestinians Clash Over Peace Deal
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) _ Members of Yasser Arafat’s political faction fought street battles Sunday with Palestinian security forces in an ominous outbreak of internal conflict stemming from the new peace accord.
The clash, representing a serious rupture within Arafat’s ranks, followed a bid by Palestinian military intelligence to seize unlicensed weapons. That was among tough new security measures Arafat agreed to at last week’s U.S. summit.
The fighting in the center of the West Bank town of Ramallah broke out as Marwan Barghouti, the leader of Fatah in the West Bank, was addressing a group of about 100 supporters outside the Palestinian Authority headquarters and the offices of Governor Mustafa Isa.
Some of the Fatah activists picked up stones and hurled them over a fence into the compound and at plainclothes intelligence agents who were watching the gathering from the sidelines, witnesses said.
Intelligence agents hurled rocks back at the crowd. But then some of the security agents fired from the second- and third-floor windows, with some of the gunfire directed into the crowd. About the same time, armed Fatah members arrived on the scene, firing shots into the air.
Two men were hurt, including a Fatah activist who suffered a gunshot wound to the head. That silenced the gunfire on both sides, and leaders from both sides quickly withdrew for a meeting.
A senior Fatah official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the confrontation followed a search Saturday night of Fatah headquarters by members of Palestinian intelligence. Fistfights broke out as the searchers went through files and looked for unlicensed weapons, the official said.
Some Fatah activists said the confrontation was exacerbated by a personal feud between the commander of the raiding party and two Fatah members.
Merchants in the center of town shuttered their shops, and burning tires and overturned garbage bins littered the streets. The fighting occurred entirely in Palestinian-controlled areas, and Israeli troops were not involved.