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Palestinian Fighting Leaves Divided Region


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Debbie Elliott.

Today's headline in an Israeli newspaper, "Three States for Two Peoples." It was a reference to the split between the two rival Palestinian factions, which deepened today. The Islamist movement Hamas is now fully in control of Gaza, and on the West Bank, Fatah moved to consolidate its hold on power.


NPR's Linda Gradstein is following developments in both places from Jerusalem and joins us. Linda, let's start on the West Bank. President Mahmoud Abbas says he is forming a new government there to replace the old Hamas-led government. How is Fatah strengthening its position there?

LINDA GRADSTEIN: Well, the new government is expected to be approved and sworn in tomorrow. It's headed by Salam Fayyad who is a former International Monetary Fund official, very respected, he's an independent and he is putting together a new government. Hamas, of course, says that that government is not legitimate since Hamas won Palestinian elections a year ago.

At the same time, hundreds of Fatah - armed Fatah supporters took over buildings in various places in the West Bank. In Ramallah at the parliament, gunmen took out any Hamas-affiliated employees, including the deputy speaker and they said that anyone associated with Hamas should not come back.

Hamas reacted to this by saying - one spokesman said that what's happening in the West Bank is a coup and he called it terrorism. And he said, quote, "we will take all steps to end these crimes," which raised, you know, fears that the fighting that we saw in Gaza over the past week could spread to the West Bank.

ELLIOTT: In Gaza today, we heard earlier from correspondent Eric Westervelt this morning, there was just chaos there and they were crossing into Israel. What is happening in Gaza now?


GRADSTEIN: There's sort of a mixed situation in Gaza. On one hand, on the streets of Gaza City, the Hamas gunmen are directing traffic, have taken over some of the, you know, police functions. There were also reports of more killings in Gaza. The body of a Fatah field commander was found in southern Gaza. Hamas said that the bodies of seven Hamas men were found in the basement of the Preventive Security Force in Gaza, which had been allied to Fatah before all these happened. And there were also reports that two Fatah loyalists were killed in Gaza, that Fatah said they were revenge killings.

One of the problems in Gaza is that all these gunmen are walking around with, you know, black masks. So it's hard to tell who's killing who and whether it's on personal issues or whether it's on, you know, national issues.

At the crossing, as Eric said, there was widespread looting. There was a lot of shooting. About hundreds of Fatah supporters also went to the crossing and tried to convince Israel to let them cross from Gaza into Israel on their way to the West Bank. Israel said it was allowing this on a case-by-case basis.

Reports are that about 150 Fatah officials from Gaza, some of them with their families, were allowed to cross and many of them did reach Ramallah. Other Fatah people in Gaza say they're really quite afraid of what could happen to them.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Linda Gradstein in Jerusalem. Thank you.

GRADSTEIN: Thank you, Debbie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.