Ferocious gunbattles broke out between Hamas and Fatah militants in the Gaza Strip and West Bank early Friday, underscoring the fragility of a new truce between the rival Palestinian factions. A Hamas militiaman injured in violence that touched off the Gaza City shootout died of his wounds.
The office of President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah blocked five major Hamas appointments to senior government positions. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas accused Abbas of trying to subvert the government's authority by refusing to authorize the appointments.
Abbas' power struggle with Hamas turned violent earlier this month after he declared that efforts to form a more moderate coalition government with the militantly anti-Israel Islamic group had broken down.
The street battle early Friday in Gaza City, which encompassed Abbas' residence and the home of Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas, broke out as Hamas militiamen tried to free two fighters kidnapped Thursday.
Rooftop gunmen began shooting at other armed men in the streets.
The presidential guard took up defensive positions behind newly built walls of sandbags and cement block barriers outside the residence of Abbas, who was not in Gaza at the time.
Hamas officials said Fatah gunmen shot at Zahar's home.
One witness estimated that more than 2,000 bullets were fired in the first 10 minutes of the shootout, and several rocket-propelled grenades were also launched.
The Tehran conference of Holocaust deniers last week provoked waves of outrage around the world, but it may inadvertently have done more for the cause of honest history than any number of learned and objective monographs. The list of speakers alone demonstrated just how intellectually impoverished is the cause of Holocaust denial: David Duke, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, the usual suspects such as Frederick Töben and Robert Faurisson, and a group of photogenic anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox rabbis. The works of Irving were displayed in glass cases, like the fossils they are.
Sacha Baron Cohen perfectly captured the intellectual tenor of the conference by sending an apology note from the anti-Semitic Borat to the Golden Globes Award organisers, saying he was otherwise engaged as guest of honour at the Tehran knees-up.
So far from lending scholarly weight to Holocaust denial, the entire episode has revealed the crude anti-Semitic grandstanding of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President. Iran’s Foreign Minister described the conference as “scientific and scholarly”, but when the anti-Israel rabbis went off-message and declared that the mass murder of European Jews had been “confirmed by innumerable eye-witnesses and fully documented”, every one of the Iranian government-controlled newspapers somehow missed the news.