Nine Palestinians, including a 13-year-old boy, were killed Friday in armed clashes between members of the Hasnin family from the village of Bani Suheila (east of Khan Yunis) and Fatah supporters and members of Palestinian Authority's counter security apparatus. Twenty-two people were injured.
A number of Hasnin family members suspected of killing six people during the clashes turned themselves in yesterday to the Palestinian police. The remaining members of the family, including women and children, have sought sanctuary at Palestinian police stations, fearing retribution.
The armed battle began at 9 A.M. Friday, after a number of youths from the Hasnin family murdered a member of the PA's counter security apparatus, Anwar al-Jouref, in Bani Suheila market. When Jouref's colleagues set out for the Hasnin family home to exact revenge, they were met by heavy gunfire.
With Palestinian police unable to restore order, the gunbattle raged on through the day and into the night, leaving nine dead - including Hasnin family members and five village residents, including 13-year-old Mohammed al-Jamus.
Unrest also broke out in the Sejahiya neighborhood of Gaza City, where some of the Hasnin family also live. There were no reports of injuries or casualties in these clashes. Police prevented members of the family from traveling to the south of the Strip and the Hasnin family members retaliated by attacking the police station, burning tires and vandalizing property. Palestinian police yesterday cordoned off the Sejahiya neighborhood and imposed restrictions on movements in the area.
During the first Intifada, Jouref, 35, was a member of the Fatah Eagles, the military wing of the movement. He was alleged to have had a member of the Hasnin family murdered on suspicion of collaborating with Israel and on Friday, Jouref was killed in an act of vengeance.
When word of Jouref's murder got out, dozens of his colleagues from the PA counter security apparatus were joined by Fatah members, most of them armed, and began moving against Hasnin family homes, only to find they had become quasi-military strongholds, with gunmen hiding behind sandbags and opening fire on anyone who approached.
According to residents of Khan Yunis, the clashes went on till 3 A.M. yesterday and only ended when Israel Defense Forces helicopters mounted a missile attack against a Palestinian target in the area. The IDF spokesman said an armaments factory had been the target.
Residents of Bani Suheila yesterday said the main suspect in Jouref's murder managed to escape under cover of the helicopter attack. Some village residents said the man fled to Israel, proving in their eyes that he was a collaborator.
Sources in Gaza said many of the Hasnin family did have close ties with the Israeli authorities and were, and still are, arms dealers. The sources said one family member was a contractor who had worked on the farm of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and had been murdered because of his connection to the Israeli leader.
The confrontations yesterday and Friday throw a harsh light on the social and political problems the PA has proved unable to deal with in the past seven years. In fact, they may have become worse. Despite warnings from various political and human rights organizations, the PA has not taken any action to prevent firearms from circulating freely among civilians, nor has it banned members of the counter security apparatus from carrying and using their weapons off duty.
Furthermore, the has PA failed to take any action against the ancient traditions of blood vengeance, and even encouraged it by allowing its courts to had down hasty death sentences after speedy trials and under public pressure.
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