Gaza City, Gaza Strip Hamas defied President Mahmoud Abbas' decree Saturday that its paramilitary unit is illegal, saying it will fight any attempt to disband the force in an increasingly bloody faceoff between the Islamic militant group and Abbas' Fatah party.
Three more Hamas supporters were killed in the factional fighting that is threatening to plunge the Palestinian territories into civil war.
The two groups have been wrangling over power since Hamas defeated Fatah in parliamentary elections a year ago and gained control of most Palestinian government functions. However, Fatah continued to dominate security forces, and last spring Hamas formed its own security unit known as the Executive Force, recruiting many former members of its military wing.
Tensions between the rival security forces erupted into large-scale fighting last month. Since then, more than two dozen people have been killed.
Abbas outlawed the Executive Force on Saturday, two days after Hamas gunmen stormed the home of a top pro-Fatah security commander and killed him and seven bodyguards. It was the deadliest battle yet during the recent wave of infighting.
Abbas' office said the decision was made "in light of continued security chaos and assassinations of a number of our fighters : and in light of the failure of existing agencies and security apparatuses in imposing law and order and protecting the security of the citizens."
The statement did not explicitly threaten force, saying only that the Hamas militia "will be dealt with accordingly."