Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hamas leader killed as factions step up violence

West Bank
October 5, 2006

THREE masked men have shot and killed a Hamas leader who was leaving a mosque in the West Bank.

Yesterday's shooting came a day after gunmen from a rival Palestinian faction threatened to kill senior Hamas members.

Witnesses said gunmen in the village of Hableh jumped out of a vehicle and shot Mohammed Odeh, 37, as he left the mosque after dawn prayers. The men then sped off.

Fatah officials in the nearby town of Qalqilya denied involvement and blamed Israel. Local Hamas officials said that they did not know who was behind the shooting.

Witnesses said the vehicle had Israeli licence plates. Cars with such plates are not uncommon in some Palestinian cities in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli military denied involvement.

Mr Odeh, described as a local leader of Hamas, died on the way to hospital, ambulance workers said.

The shooting occurred a day after the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed faction of Fatah, threatened in a statement to kill senior Hamas leaders.

The violence this week in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank was the worst internal bloodshed to occur since the Palestinian Authority was created in 1994 under interim peace accords with Israel.

The clashes followed stalled efforts by Hamas and Fatah to form a unity government to try to revive Western aid.

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