Fatah official kidnapped in Gaza

Israel Materials 14 December 2007 21:52 (UTC +04:00)

( AP ) - Hamas gunmen on Friday burst into the home of a top Fatah official in Gaza and arrested him, relatives said. He was the most senior Fatah politician to be detained since Hamas forces overtook the territory in June.

Also Friday, three people were killed in an unexplained explosion at a funeral in Gaza City. Witnesses said a man carrying explosives in a jacket accidentally detonated them, while Hamas security said a member of the procession threw a pipe bomb.

Omar Al-Ghoul, arrested by Hamas for "illegal activities," had been spending much of his time in the West Bank after Hamas violently seized control of Gaza last June. He arrived in Gaza on Thursday to attend his mother-in-law's funeral.

Al-Ghoul is an adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, whose moderate West Bank government was formed after Hamas' Gaza takeover.

Around 4 a.m., armed gunmen in civilian clothes burst into Al-Ghoul's home, ransacking it and seizing him, his relatives said.

His wife, Shifa Al-Ghoul, said the gunmen threatened to blow open the door before the family let them in. After 10 gunmen took her husband away, another group searched the home for two hours, she said. The forces confiscated two computers and other personal belongings and abused her verbally before they left, she said.

"We still don't know where he is," she said. "They treated me in a barbaric way ... and threatened me with guns a few times."

Al-Ghoul is considered a harsh critic of Hamas and frequently attacks the fundamentalists in a newspaper column he writes.

The information minister of the West Bank government, Riad Malki, called the arrest "barbaric," saying it was part of Hamas' attempts to "extort" his government.

Al-Ghoul's family and supporters later held a protest outside the family home to demand his release.

After Hamas took over Gaza, the group's militants detained several prominent Fatah members.

At the Gaza City funeral, hundreds of Fatah supporters marched in a procession for one their members who was killed in an Israeli airstrike against militants.

Witnesses said a participant accidentally detonated explosives he was carrying in his jacket. Standing on top of a moving car with a loud speaker, the man opened up the jacket to show off the explosives and then jumped off the car, triggering the explosion and instantly killing himself and the others, witnesses said.

Gunfire and explosions are common at Gaza funerals.

Hamas security officials offered a differing version of events, saying a funeral-goer threw a pipe bomb from the procession, and it bounced off a wall and exploded.

The West Bank government allied with Fatah accused Hamas of throwing a bomb at the procession and consequently declared Saturday a national "mourning day." Fatah officials said in a statement posted on the official WAFA news agency that the bombing was a "continuation of Hamas crimes since its coup."

Hamas security officials denied their forces were involved.

Also Friday, three Palestinian youths were injured in a shooting near Gaza's northern border with Israel, one seriously, medics said. Palestinians blamed Israeli troops, which frequently fire on Palestinians who approach the tense border for fear of attacks. The Israeli army said soldiers were not involved.