Fatah Refugees Sent to Jericho

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - The 153 Fatah-affiliated Palestinians remaining of the initial 188 who sought refuge in Israel this weekend are being sent to Jericho.

On Saturday, Hamas raided the Sajaiyeh neighborhood in Gaza City, home to many members of the Hilles clan -- an extended Palestinian family affiliated with the Fatah party -- in the most violent internecine fighting since the bloody military coup in June 2007, when Hamas wrested control of the Strip from Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah forces.

Eleven people were killed and dozens more injured, while 188 fled toward the Nahal Oz border crossing with Gaza, dodging heavy machine gun, sniper and mortar fire.

At the crossing, they surrendered their weapons and were carefully searched by IDF troops before being allowed to seek refuge in Israel.

Several members of the Hilles clan, including its leader, Ahmed Hilles, were admitted to Israeli hospitals for treatment.

On Sunday, Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad asked Israel to treat the wounded and, with the exception of Hilles clan members, return the rest to Gaza.

At first Israel complied, sending 35 men back. They were immediately arrested by Hamas security police.

In a series of phone calls lasting late into the night, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak urged the PA not to send anymore men back to the Strip.

On Sunday, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice, stating that returning the men to Gaza violated their human rights and Israeli law, and endangered their lives.

On Monday morning, the PA agreed to transfer the remaining men to Ramallah, but later changed their minds again, asking that Israel transfer them to Jericho instead.

The IDF and the Shin Bet (General Security Agency) ran stringent security checks on all the men, detaining any suspected of terror activities.

Sources: YNet news, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post

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