Scores of protesters stormed the Palestinian parliament building on Wednesday, pushing their way into the legislative chamber to demand long overdue wages from the Hamas-led government.
The chaotic scene in Ramallah, and violence in Gaza that killed a Hamas gunman and wounded a security chief loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, were further signs of the growing power struggle between the rival groups.
Interrupting a parliamentary session, protesters climbed on top of lawmakers’ desks and threw paper and water bottles. Several Hamas legislators left the chamber as shouting from the crowd turned angrier.
“It is true employees are hungry. They have gone 100 days without salaries. But this is total chaos. We cannot have the storming of the PLC session,” Fatah lawmaker Jamal Abul Rub said, referring to the parliament or Palestinian Legislative Council.
A Western aid boycott since Hamas came to power in March has prevented the new government from securing enough funds to pay 165,000 government workers or to provide basic services.
'Israelis are better than you'
About 1,000 government workers protested outside the parliament building, which came under gunfire from Fatah militants on Monday.
“The Israelis are better than you,” one shouted at a legislator.
As some in the crowd pushed their way into the building, a Hamas lawmaker shouted: “This is chaos, get them out.”
Hundreds of Hamas supporters marched to the parliament building, where heavily-armed guards loyal to Abbas stood watch. “We will not be terrorized by your gangster ways,” the Hamas supporters chanted.
In the Gaza Strip, security sources said a Hamas gunman was shot dead after he and other masked militants ambushed a car carrying Refat Kullab, head of the Preventive Security Service in the southern town of Khan Younis.
Hamas officials said Preventive Security members in Kullab’s car fired first.
Kullab was wounded in both legs and was in a moderate to serious condition in hospital, the security sources said.
Hours after the shooting, gunmen burned down Kullab’s house. Preventive Security blamed Hamas members.
Fears of civil war
Growing violence between Hamas and groups aligned to Abbas have raised fears of civil war in the Palestinian territories. Around 20 people have been killed in clashes in the past month.
Tensions have been stoked by a referendum that Abbas has called for July 26 on a proposal for a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel.
Hamas does not recognize Israel and has labeled the referendum a coup attempt.