Hamas fighters in control of Gaza
Hamas is gaining complete control of the Gaza Strip
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Thursday, 14, Jun 2007 10:14
Hamas militants are now in control of Gaza Strip after taking key Fatah strongholds, including the presidential compound in Gaza City.
More than 100 people have now died in a week of fighting between the two Palestinian parties and the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas, has sacked the Hamas-led government and declared a state of emergency.
But Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the dismissed government, has said Hamas will push on to establish law and order in the region.
The group also claims to have arrested a number of Fatah military leaders in Gaza.
The Fatah stronghold of the West Bank is now effectively split from Gaza as two distinct territories, with one held by Fatah and the other by Hamas.
One Hamas fighter told the Reuters news agency "we have taken the authority", while the green flags of the Islamic group were hoisted above the presidential compound as it was looted and trashed.
The US is expected to channel funds to the PA to support Mr Abbas, who has said he will now rule by decree for 30 days as allowed by the Palestinian political rules.
The president, who is currently based at his headquarters in the West Bank, will now appoint an emergency government to try and bring order to the situation.
But Mr Abbas' influence in Gaza is now extremely limited as relations between the Islamic Hamas and secular Fatah sink to an all-time low.
Fatah's al-Aqsa martyrs brigades are now concerned that clashes with Hamas' al-Qassam brigades could spread to the West Bank.
The foreign secretary Margaret Beckett said that once again "extremists carrying guns have prevented progress against the wishes of the majority who seek a peaceful two-state solution".
She added: "The current violence in Gaza and the West Bank remains deeply alarming and I again call on all parties, to agree an immediate ceasefire, for the sake of the Palestinian people.
"It is imperative that all sides agree to speak to each other. Dialogue is the only way to achieve a long lasting and sustainable peace."
US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice has backed Mr Abbas, saying that he was elected in 2005 "by a large margin".
"We fully support him and his decision to try and end this crisis of the Palestinian people and to give them an opportunity. to return to peace and a better future."
The European Commission meanwhile has suspended humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip because of the violence.
Hamas formed a government after a sweeping victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections.