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PA launches campaign to remove Hamas graffiti in Gaza

Khaled Abu Toameh
Jerusalem Post
Sunday 17 July 2005

The Palestinian Authority on Sunday began a campaign to remove Hamas graffiti and flags from the streets of Gaza City in a move that has been condemned by Hamas leaders as `provocative.`

Eyewitnesses said PA policemen removed several Hamas banners and flags from phone and electricity poles and wiped out graffiti sprayed on the walls by Hamas members.

The campaign, ordered by PA Interior Minister Nasser Youssef, came as Egyptian security officials met separately in Gaza City with PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leaders in an attempt to resolve differences between the two sides. The Egyptian team is headed by Gen. Mustafa Buhairi, deputy head of the Egyptian Intelligence Force.

Two Palestinians were killed and about 30 injured in clashes between Hamas gunmen and PA policemen on Thursday and Friday. The confrontation, the worst since Abbas was elected as chairman of the PA earlier this year, erupted when the PA security forces opened fire at a Hamas squad that was firing rockets at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip.

`It`s clear that the Palestinian Authority is trying to provoke Hamas by removing banners and flags from the streets,` said Hamas spokesman Mushir al Masri. `Why isn`t the Palestinian Authority doing anything against the thugs who are roaming our streets?`

Abbas, who has refused to meet with Hamas leaders ever since he arrived in the Gaza Strip last Thursday, told the Egyptian security delegation that he was determined to restore law and order and prevent the collapse of the unofficial truce with Israel. He said the PA security forces would stop the rocket attacks at any price.

`President Abbas is very disturbed by the actions that have caused damage to the people and the homeland,` Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a top Abbas aide, said after the meeting. `The Egyptian team emphasized the need to abide by the truce and to impose law and order. They also warned against attempts to undermine the Palestinian Authority.`

Interior Minister Youssef, who attended the meeting, said he would not rescind his orders to the PA security forces to prevent rocket attacks on Israel and restore law and order. However, he warned that the latest Israeli escalation was `unjustified and unacceptable.`

`The Israeli actions only complicate matters and don`t contribute to achieving calm and stability,` Youssef said, referring to the killing of a number of Hamas operatives over the past few days in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

As the meeting with the Egyptian security officers was underway, scores of Fatah gunmen marched in the streets of Gaza City in support of Abbas. The gunmen shouted slogans against Hamas and called for punishing those involved in the clashes with the PA security forces.

On Saturday night, Hamas gunmen shot and seriously wounded a senior PA security officer near Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, according to a statement released by the PA Interior Ministry. It identified the officer as Raed Abu Haloub of the National Security Force.

In Khan Yunis, arsonists set fire to the office of Tunis- based PLO leader Farouk Kaddoumi. The office was opened recently in the city by a group of Fatah officials affiliated with Kaddoumi.

The director of the office, Suleiman Abu Farra, condemned the attack as `criminal` and accused the assailants of seeking to fuel tensions between rival Fatah factions. Following the arson, a group of Fatah gunmen attacked PA security installations in the city with gunfire. No casualties were reported.

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