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Israel stokes up Hamas-Fatah strife in Gaza, considers ground invasion
Israel is intervening in the mounting factional strife in Gaza between Fatah and Hamas, with the explicit aim of eliminating Hamas as a military and political force.
On May 17, Israel gave the go-ahead for 500 Fatah fighters to cross into the Gaza Strip from Egypt, so as to lend support to the forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who are fighting Hamas forces loyal to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. The 500 are reported to have been trained under a US-sponsored programme. Many Fatah security personnel have received training in Arab and European Union countries, often by American and Russian personnel.
The previous day, an Israeli military helicopter had fired at a target in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, killing four members of Hamas’s Executive Force and injuring 18. Israeli troops opened fire at Gaza’s only cargo terminal at the Karni crossing, where a shoot out occurred between Hamas and Fatah, killing one person.
Also on May 17, Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz, of the Labour Party ordered the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to launch air strikes against Hamas and suspected militants. In one strike, Israeli forces hit the headquarters of Hamas’s Executive Force, its armed security group that has operated in Gaza since Hamas took power in January 2006. The Israeli military carried out targeted assassinations, blowing up cars it claimed were carrying suspected militants. Hamas said that three of its members were killed. Two further missiles hit a pick-up truck killing a family, including 13- and 18-year-old brothers.