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Hamas Gives Amnesty, Killings Persist

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The Associated Press
Friday, June 15, 2007; 11:26 PM

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Cheering Hamas supporters wearing green headbands and waving flags surged through Gaza's streets Friday as Islamic militants in black masks took over one of President Mahmoud Abbas' offices and rifled through his bedroom.

Hamas offered amnesty to its defeated foes as violence tapered off from five days of bloodshed that claimed more than 90 lives. But Fatah leader Abbas made the split complete by firing the Hamas prime minister, leaving Palestinians struggling to adjust to a new political reality that has crushed their long-standing hopes for their own state.

Safe in the West Bank, Abbas moved quickly to cement his rule there after losing control of Gaza to Hamas forces. He replaced Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas member, with Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, a respected economist, to head a new moderate government.

Hamas, overwhelmingly elected in a 2006 parliament vote, denounced Abbas' move as a coup. Hamas' supreme leader, Syrian-based Khaled Mashaal, later said Abbas has legitimacy as an elected president and promised to cooperate, but warned Fatah against going after Hamas loyalists in the West Bank.

But Fatah gunmen and security forces allied with Abbas in the West Bank were prowling that territory looking for Hamas supporters and wrecking a Hamas radio station.

The sparring made little difference on the ground: The two Palestinian territories, on either side of Israel, are now separate entities with two governments _ one run by Hamas and backed by radical Islamic states, and the other controlled by the Western-supported Fatah.

Abbas received immediate pledges of support from Israel, the U.S., Egypt, Jordan, the U.N. and Saudi Arabia.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak by phone that he would take steps to bolster Abbas. Officials in Olmert's office said he would consider releasing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax receipts frozen after Hamas came to power.

Though the moderate government that Abbas plans to appoint will have no say in Gaza, it stands a stronger chance than the Hamas-Fatah coalition it replaces of restoring foreign aid to the West Bank.

The yearlong aid embargo imposed after the Hamas election victory has crippled the Palestinian economy, and many Gazans feared they would become even more isolated and impoverished.

In a West Bank hotel, several Fatah loyalists who fled Gaza sat in the lobby chain-smoking and worked the phones to set up new lives, hearing from relatives in Gaza that their homes had been searched.

In Gaza City, a government worker who ran the operations room in the main police compound, called his old office and pleaded with the new Hamas rulers to care for the computers. He gave only his first name, Hani, because he feared for his safety despite Hamas' amnesty offer.

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© 2007 The Associated Press

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