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Hamas detention of Fatah officials escalates feud

Hamas arrested senior Fatah officials in Gaza on Friday, capping off one of the worst weeks of conflict between the two Palestinian factions.

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The worst week of internal Palestinian conflict since Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip last year ended with fresh escalation as the Islamic militants on Friday arrested senior political leaders of the secular Fatah party in the coastal enclave.

A Hamas spokesperson said the arrests were a retaliation for round-ups of its political figures in the West Bank by officers of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority.

Amid the tit-for-tat detentions, spokesmen for the rival parties stepped up their rhetorical attacks on one another, with Hamas spokespeople making open threats to repeat their Gaza takeover in the West Bank. The acrimony is complicating recent attempts by Arab mediators to convene Hamas-Fatah talks aimed at reconciling the 13-month rift.

"It will continue to escalate. Maybe they are negotiating by arresting each other before the real talks,'' says Hissam Jaberi, a Gaza-based reporter for the Al-Ayyam newspaper. "As long as we don't have a national program accepted by all the parties, we will continue to fight.''

The roundups on Friday included prominent members of Fatah's executive committee and Fatah's regional governors who Hamas had allowed to remain in office ever since seizing power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

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