After Hamas leader Khaled Mashal suggested that President Mahmoud Abbas was trying to undermine the new Palestinian government, Palestinian students at rival universities began attacking each other with everything from rocks to rifles. At least 15 were reported wounded.
The violence continued into Sunday. In Gaza, Hamas and Fatah gunmen traded fire at the Health Ministry. There was a similar incident in the West Bank town of Nablus where dozens of Fatah gunmen took over the municipality building and ordered the mayor, who is from Hamas, to shut down his offices. Elsewhere in the West Bank, thousands of Fatah supporters took part in several separate rallies supporting Abbas and Mashal.
While leaders from both factions have been meeting and calling for an end to the violence, they’ve had little success, and there is now speculation that the fighting could erupt into a civil war.
Just hours ago, Hamas gunmen and police had to rescue the newly appointed health minister after angry Palestinians stormed his office. Hamas blamed Fatah which denied any involvement in the affair.
What is clear is the people’s frustration with the newly-elected Hamas government, the inability of both Hamas and Fatah to form a functioning coalition government, the economic strangulation, and a complete lack of leadership are resulting in explosive levels of unrest, tension, and anger. Neither side seems to be willing to compromise. Worse, neither side seems to be able to control their own gunmen.
The violence continues to spread with occasional pauses to condemn Israel, but even appeals to unite against their common enemy seems no longer sufficient to hide the fundamental differences between the two parties, the economic and social chaos created by years of Fatah corruption and misrule, and the growing distrust in Hamas in a leadership role.