Hamas fires on supporters, kills one

Associated Press
Published September 2, 2007

RAFAH, Gaza Strip - Hamas gunmen opened fire on their own supporters Saturday, killing a teenager at a protest on the Gaza-Egypt border, hospital officials said.

Tens of thousands of flag-waving Hamas supporters gathered at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt to demand that it be reopened. The border, Gaza's only gateway to Egypt, has been shut since Hamas' bloody takeover of the Gaza Strip in June.

Hamas gunmen guarding the border fired in the air as hundreds of protesters tried to rush the border terminal and go into Egypt. A 17-year-old was shot in the head and later pronounced dead, medics said. Seven others were trampled or shot.

"This is a peaceful protest to voice our message that we are looking for freedom," said Issa Mashar, a top Hamas leader in Rafah. "We came to send a message from the people who are suffering."

Ashraf Abu Daya, one of the rally's organizers, appealed for calm from the crowd.

"There is no need to break into the crossing. The crossing is no longer under the occupation. The crossing is under the control of the Hamas Executive Committee," he said. Hamas charges that the government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas does not want the crossing opened by Egypt because that would help the Islamic group hold on to power in Gaza.

The Hamas takeover triggered the closure of the border crossing, which had been run by Palestinian security with European supervision and Israeli security in the background.

Ihab al-Ghusain, a Hamas security spokesman, said its forces tried to prevent a few of the demonstrators from approaching the border with Egypt.

Also Saturday, Hamas authorities set $243 bail for the release of Fatah activists it arrested following a Gaza protest rally. That's about a month's salary in the impoverished Gaza Strip.

Hamas has been attempting to establish its authority in the Gaza Strip and thwart any forms of dissent since it overthrew Fatah.