At least eleven people were killed and 40 wounded on Tuesday when Hamas-run security forces clashed with a powerful local family in Gaza City, according to Palestinian security officials.
The fighting, in which another seven people were wounded, erupted when Hamas police moved to arrest members of the Doghmush clan accused of gunning down a police officer on Monday but family refused to turn over the suspects.
Witnesses said they heard heavy gunfire and the explosions of rocket-propelled grenades in the city’s Sabra neighborhood, a clan stronghold, during several hours of fighting.
Three of those killed were gunmen, officials said. A Hamas source said one was a member of the Army of Islam, a pro-al Qaeda group. A medic said a fourth victim was unarmed. A Hamas policeman was also shot dead in the fighting, an official said.
Several members of the Doghmush clan, one of the most powerful families in the impoverished coastal strip, are suspected of belonging to the Army of Islam, a small shadowy armed group inspired by al-Qaeda.
The Army of Islam was behind the kidnapping of BBC reporter Alan Johnston in 2007 and along with Hamas and another small group claimed responsibility for the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shlit in a deadly cross-border raid in 2006.
Since Hamas seized power in Gaza in June 2007 after routing forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas it has had tense relations with the group that have occasionally spilled over into street clashes.
The fighting was the deadliest in the territory since the start of August, when nine people were killed and dozens wounded in a similar battle between Hamas police and the Hellis clan, which is close to Abbas’s Fatah party.
The Hamas-controlled interior ministry said in a statement its security forces resorted to force against "fugitives", including theDoghmosh clan only "after exhausting all peaceful efforts" to arrest suspects.
Police said they seized explosives and weapons during the raid.
(Agencies via Alarabiya.net)