By Avi Isaacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent and Associated Press
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced Wednesday that he was
cutting short a month-long foreign trip, hours after a prominent member of
Hamas was shtot dead in the southern Gaza Strip.
The man, a judge and senior =member of the Hamas military wing, was shot dead
Wednesday morning by armed men outside a courthouse in Khan Yunis in the
southern Gaza Strip.
Palestinian security officials identified the dead man as Bassam al-Fara, 30,
a judge at the Islamic court and a member of the largest clan in Khan Yunis.
Witnesses said four gunmen ambushed al-Fara, opening fire as he emerged from
his car and began walking into the courthouse. Hospital officials said
al-Fara's body was riddled with several bullets.
Haniyeh, also of Hamas, said in Sudan he would return to Gaza on Thursday.
When he left Gaza on November 28 Haniyeh had planned to travel for a month,
but this drew criticism because of the need to conclude negotiations on a new
unity government and the political violence raging in the Palestinian
"We need the prime minister to be here now to resolve the internal problems,"
Haniyeh's political adviser, Ahmed Youssef, said in Gaza on Wednesday.
Haniyeh dismissed fears of the violence in Gaza escalating to a civil war.
"We want to assure you that words such as 'civil war' don't exist in our
dictionary. They don't exist in our makeup, in our culture," Haniyeh told
reporters in Khartoum.
"We don't have time for internal feuds. We will protect the national unity of
the Palestinian people and we will thwart any attempt to instigate an
The drive-by shooting came two days after the killing of the three young
children of a Fatah-allied Palestinian intelligence officer, sparking renewed
clashes between the rival Hamas and Fatah factions and raising the specter of
a civil war among Palestinians.
Fauzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, condemned the killing and promised to bring
the perpetrators to justice.
"This is an ugly crime committed against one of the field commanders of Hamas'
military wing and one of the prominent figures in Hamas.
"The fingers that shot him are the same fingers that were involved in the
killing of previous Hamas leaders," he said, adding that "Hamas is not going
to forget the blood of its members, it is going to pursue and bring those who
were involved in today's crime to justice".
Fatah spokesman Tawfik Abu Khoussa rejected the accusations. "We condemn all
acts of anarchy whatever may be behind them, we call on the brothers in Hamas
to stop firing accusations before the investigation," he said.
But other Fatah officials noted that al-Fara had been involved in previous
attacks against Fatah members.
Dozens gathered at the point of the shooting and Palestinian security set up
roadblocks. Hamas militants also set up their own roadblocks throughout town,
searching for the gunmen.
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