GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip The Hamas-led government's private militia returned to the streets of Gaza Saturday after a one-day absence, complicating efforts to end an increasingly bloody standoff with President Mahmoud Abbas' rival Fatah movement.
Although the force was out in limited numbers, angry Fatah officials said the move risked setting off more violence and accused Hamas of using the militia as a bargaining chip in the stalemate with Abbas.
Abbas has issued an ultimatum to Hamas to accept by next week a plan for a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The plan implies recognition of Israel, and accepting it would effectively mean an end to Hamas' stated aim of destroying the Jewish state. Hamas officials signaled Saturday they would not honor the deadline. The 3,000-strong Hamas militia has been at the center of the Palestinian infighting. Hamas' decision to withdraw the black-clad gunmen from public areas Friday was widely seen as a conciliatory gesture.
Early Saturday, militia members were out again, this time stationed in pairs at several major intersections and near the homes of senior Hamas government officials. The situation appeared to be calm, and in some instances, Hamas gunmen chatted freely with regular policemen.