Israel Re-routes Fleeing Gazans to West Bank

Israel said on Monday it would transfer to the occupied West Bank dozens of pro-Fatah Palestinians who fled the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip after clashes with the Islamist group, reversing a decision to send them home.

About 180 members of the pro-Fatah Helles clan were granted temporary refuge in Israel after a fierce assault by Hamas on the family’s Gaza City neighborhood on Saturday.

Eleven Palestinians were killed and more than 90 were wounded in the fighting, the fiercest since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip a year ago after routing secular Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel sent about 30 members of the Helles clan back to the Gaza Strip on Sunday, citing a request from Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

"Israeli authorities halted the process, however, as they received information that they were being arrested by Hamas," the Israeli army said in a statement.

Hamas said it carried out the raid on the Helles compound on Saturday to detain men it accused of carrying out a July 25 bombing that killed five Hamas members and a girl.

The bombing triggered a wave of tit-for-tat arrests by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Abbas’s Fatah faction in the West Bank.

It was not immediately clear how many Gazans would be transported to the West Bank city of Ramallah, where Abbas’s Western-backed government is based.

The army said several of the men would remain at least temporarily at Israel’s Barzilai hospital near the Gaza Strip, where they have been undergoing treatment for wounds sustained during fighting with Hamas.

Palestinian officials had no immediate comment on the decision to allow the men to be moved to the West Bank.

The Israeli army said a top aide to Defense Minister Ehud Barak was coordinating the transfer with Fayyad.

The Helles clan, one of the most dominant and heavily-armed Gaza families, was sharply criticized by some Fatah leaders in the West Bank for not resisting Hamas’s takeover in June 2007.

Speaking in Amman on Sunday, Abbas called for Egyptian-brokered dialogue with Hamas.

"We disagree and we fight with each other," Abbas said, according to the official Palestinian WAFA news agency. "We don’t have any choice. We have to reduce the gap between us and the Hamas movement."

(Reuters via Alarabiya)

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