Saturday, July 26, 2008

Fatah supporters arrested after beachside blast

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Hamas security arrested dozens of supporters of the rival Fatah group early Saturday, Fatah said, a day after a mysterious beachside blast killed five Hamas members and a 6-year-old girl.
The explosion went off in a car parked near a crowded Gaza City beach. Hamas said a group of Hamas activists was picnicking on the beach. Three Hamas members, including a field commander, and the girl were killed immediately.
Hospital officials said two more Hamas activists died of injuries Saturday and 15 people were wounded.

If the blast targeted Hamas activists, it would be the deadliest such attack since the Islamic militants ousted Fatah-allied security forces from Gaza in a violent takeover more than a year ago.

At least 40 reportedly arrested
One Fatah member, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said at least 40 of the group’s supporters were rounded up early Saturday.

Gaza’s Hamas government did not accuse Fatah directly of involvement, but was to meet Saturday to discuss the incident.

The Hamas movement suggested the attack was politically motivated.

“Everyone should understand that political freedom is guaranteed in the Gaza Strip but that criminal action is prohibited,” a Hamas statement said. “These crimes cannot pass. We will deter the criminals with strong punishment.”

Third blast of the day
Friday’s beachside explosion was the third of the day.

The first went off outside the Al Jazera cafe, killing the assailant and wounding three people. The cafe had been hit twice before this year, presumably by hardline Muslims who target record shops and other businesses seen as symbols of Western influence