Hamas says that Zakaria Agha (photo), the top representative of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party in the Gaza Strip, has been released, after being held for four days.
Although Fatah denied involvement in a beachside bombing that killed five Hamas militant and a young girl, Mr Agha was detained as part of a wave of arrests of Fatah supporters. In the West Bank, president Abbas’s party carried out its own series of arrests.
“We have released Zakaria Agha as a sign of goodwill and in response to Arab and Palestinian efforts”, Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu told the AFP news agency.
Mr Agha was arrested with fellow senior Fatah official Ibrahim Abu Naja, along with others, in the Hamas crackdown following the coastal bombing. In 2007, Mr Abbas appointed both of them to run Fatah in Gaza, after Hamas took control.
Mr Abu Naja and other Fatah officials are believed still to be in custody.
Over the weekend, violence erupted when Hamas fighters clashed with a pro-Fatah clan in Gaza City, killing nearly a dozen of people, and scoring wounded in the worst internal feuding since the militant Hamas faction gained power in Gaza.
Sent to West Bank
About 200 Fatah men fled from Gaza to Israel in the wake of the fighting, and some 35 returned to Gaza, where some were detained by Hamas.
In order to keep a Fatah presence in Gaza, Mr Abbas had requested the men be returned there, but later, after learning of their arrests and receiving information that “their lives were in danger”, the Israeli army halted the transfer of the men.
About 90 were sent by bus to the town of Jericho, on the West Bank, controlled by the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian officials said that they were to be housed in the Palestinian National Security headquarters there.
Officials added that the remainder of the Fatah supporters were either in hospital in Israel or being questioned by Israeli security forces.