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Hamas PM orders gunmen off streets after clashes

Written by: Staff
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GAZA, Apr 1 (Reuters) Gunmen from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement fired off guns in a show of force in Gaza today, defying orders from Prime Minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to stay off the streets.

The militants demanded Haniyeh arrest members of a rival group they blamed for deadly clashes in which three people died, violence that has posed a major challenge for Islamist militant group Hamas now in charge of the Palestinian government.

About 300 gunmen shot repeatedly into the air as Fatah strongman Samir al-Mashharawi threatened to take measures if Haniyeh failed to arrest a leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, a rival group he blamed for yesterday's gunbattle.

''We in Fatah will not allow this person to escape punishment,'' al-Mashharawi said.

Yesterday's clashes broke out when members of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a group that often fires rockets at Israel, accused Palestinian security forces close to Abbas of helping Israel kill a top faction member in a car blast.

Israel's army denied involvement in the explosion.

Haniyeh said today his government, which beat Abbas's Fatah in a January election and now controls tens of thousands of security officers, had ordered the gunmen involved in the clashes to leave the streets in a bid to end tension.

''What happened was dangerous and must not be repeated,'' Haniyeh told reporters.

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