INTERNATIONAL: Gaza and West Bank Split between Hamas and Fatah

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Byline: By Abdul Wahab

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in an emergency cabinet yesterday and outlawed the militia forces of the Islamic Hamas movement, deepening the violent rupture in Palestinian society.

Hamas seized control of Gaza last week after a series of bloody battles with Abbas' Fatah movement. The violence left Gaza increasingly isolated, a situation worsened when an Israeli fuel company cut off deliveries to petrol stations in the coastal strip.

The hurried swearing-in ceremony of the new cabinet left the Palestinians effectively with two governments - the Hamas leadership headed by deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza and the new Cabinet led by respected economist Salam Fayyad.

Abbas issued a decree early yesterday annulling a law requiring the new government to be approved by parliament, which is dominated by Hamas. In Gaza, Haniyeh called the new government illegal and insisted he remains in power.

In an apparent response to Abbas' decree, Haniyeh fired Rashid Abu Shbak, head of internal security, and Kamal Sheikh, director general of the Palestinian police. The decisions were symbolic because both men moved to the West Bank.

Fayyad, an independent, will retain his post as finance minister and also serve as foreign minister in the emergency government, which Abbas appointed to replace the Hamas-led cabinet he fired after Hamas seized control of Gaza.

The small emergency cabinet is dominated by independents, including human rights activists and business people. Only one, Interior Minister Abdel Razak Yehiyeh, is a member of Abbas's Fatah movement.

In taking office, Fayyad said the new government would work to end the chaos and provide security for the Palestinians.

"We are going to work with clean hands, systematically," he said.

Addressing the Palestinians in Gaza, he said: "You are in our hearts, and the top of our agenda. The dark images, the shameful things that are alien to our traditions ... are not going to stop us."

It is "time to work together for Palestine", he said.

Abbas also issued a decree outlawing Hamas' militias, "due to their military coup against the Palestinian legitimacy and its institutions". …