August 4, 2008

Fatah Gaza Refugees to Go to West Bank

Palestinian supporters of the Fatah faction who fled to Israel from Gaza during weekend fighting will be transferred to the West Bank, officials said Monday.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak reportedly made the decision late Sunday, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said. The group of 188 Palestinians showed up Saturday at a checkpoint along the Gaza-Israel border pleading to enter the country to escape militants from the rival Hamas faction, which has controlled Gaza since last year. The Israeli military granted them temporary entry.

Now, Barak says the Fatah supporters, including members of the Hilles clan targeted by Hamas, will be transferred to the West Bank. That area is controlled by Fatah members such as Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Haaretz says the Palestinians will be granted temporary asylum in the West Bank city of Jericho, despite initial plans to transfer them to Ramallah. Abbas, who persuaded Israel to return some refugees to Gaza, reportedly has changed his mind after those returnees were immediately arrested by Hamas. Abbas is now allowing the remaining refugees to go to the West Bank, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Eleven people were killed in Gaza during the weekend in factional fighting.