Two Palestinian policemen wounded by Hamas gunfire
Palestinian PM Qureia quits January's elections over Israel's ban on voting in East Jerusalem.
A Hamas gunman opened fire on Palestinian policemen on Saturday evening, moderately wounding two officers, officials said.
The shooting threatened to raise tensions between the Islamic group and the Palestinian Authority, and come just a month before Hamas and the ruling Fatah Party compete in parliamentary elections.
Officials said the policemen stopped a group of armed Hamas members at a routine checkpoint in Gaza City. When they demanded the gunmen hand over their weapons, they opened fire and fled.
The Palestinian Authority Interior Ministry said security forces will beat "with an iron fist all those who shed Palestinian blood and assault Palestinian security personnel." There was no immediate comment from Hamas.
The incident occured against a backdrop of uncertainty within the Palestinian Authority, as PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said Saturday he will not run in upcoming parliamentary elections because of an Israeli threat to ban voting in east Jerusalem.
Qureia also said he thinks the January 25 elections should be postponed altogether because of the Jerusalem issue.
"It is the main issue. We must not go to elections without Jerusalem," he told a news conference. Control of Jerusalem is one of the central disputes in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinians claim predominantly Arab east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. Israel, which captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, says the entire city is its eternal capital. Qureia lives on the outskirts of east Jerusalem.
Israel has allowed east Jerusalem Arabs to participate in past Palestinian elections. But it is threatening to ban voting in the parliamentary election if the Palestinian Authority does not prevent the Islamic group Hamas from running. The militant group appears poised to make a strong showing against the ruling Fatah Party in the election.
Queria said on Saturday that, while he will not run in the parliamentary elections, he had resumed his job as prime minister, from which he resigned some ten days ago in protest of the vote.
It was not clear whether Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas had given Queria permission to return to the job as prime minister from which he resigned on December 15. Abbas's office made no immediate comment.
Qureia said his decision not to run for parliament wasn't related to infighting within Fatah between party veterans and its disgruntled "young guard," which formed a breakaway faction last week and presented a separate list of candidates.
Eager to bring the young guard back, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is seeking to redraw the party's list of candidates, giving top positions to younger activists.
The move has upset party veterans, including Qureia, who will now have to compete in district voting where re-election isn't guaranteed.
Party officials have said Qureia, who was placed near the top of Fatah's original list of candidates, would have a difficult time winning his local district.
Thirteen senior Fatah veterans told Abbas they oppose the emerging deal with the young guard and threatened to form a rival parliamentary list, to be named after the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, officials said Saturday. Abbas brushed off the threat, telling them they should run in district elections, where he felt certain they could win, the officials added.