Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas’s supporters showed their strength through a massive congregation at a stadium in Gaza City and encouraged Fattah party strongman Mohammed Dahlan threaten hard-line party Hamas of reprisals. In its largest show of force since 1994, tens of thousands of Fattah supporters gathered in what is considered to be a Hamas stronghold and cheered Dhlan’s promise to “hit back twice as hard” with “Death to the killers!” chants. In another significant signal, attendees also chanted “Shiites! Shiites!” as if to implicate that Hamas was being controlled by Iran and Syria.
Abbas had already revealed plans that he intends to call early elections in a bid to replace Hamas’s government saying that “All paths to forming a government of national unity are closed” and that there was “no other choice.” He demanded that Hamas disbands the interior ministry’s “executive force” as they were illegally outside the ambit of existing security structures that are under his command. He said that this force has to be “integrated” into existing “legal security services as stipulated by basic law” and warned that the present form was “illegal” and his forces will treat then “as such.”
However, Hamas rejected the election move as a “mistake” and promised internecine bloodshed. Since December 16, when the plan was first revealed, both party workers clashed killing 16 people and wounding scores more and the house of a Hamas MP was torched. Claiming that the “executive force” was legal “according to the orders of the interior ministry,” Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya warned Abbas against a crackdown on his force and revealed plans to double the size from the current 5500 to 12,000 men.