Palestinians Arrest Rival Forces

JENIN, West Bank — Hamas and Fatah carried out tit-for-tat arrests on Sunday after deadly Gaza bomb attacks fueled tension between the Palestinian factions.

In the West Bank, security forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas detained 20 Hamas activists in the city of Jenin. They netted 15 more in similar raids in Tulkarm.

A security official in Jenin said the Hamas detainees would be interrogated about arms caches and militant activities.

The arrests followed a crackdown in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, where Fatah officials said their Islamist rivals had rounded up nearly 200 Fatah men after one of three bomb blasts killed five Hamas militants and a girl Friday.

Hamas policemen set up roadblocks across the Gaza Strip to check for guns, explosives and suspects, local residents said.

One senior security officer loyal to Abbas fled across the border into Israel to escape arrest by Hamas forces, sources with the Islamist group said.

Police seeking Fatah activists clashed with gunmen of the Army of Islam, an al-Qaida-inspired group, who feared they were being targeted. Two Army of Islam gunmen were arrested.

Hamas blamed Friday's bombings on Fatah, which denied involvement.

The factional flare-up sparked fears of more violence and was one of the gravest since Hamas routed its Fatah foes and seized control of Gaza a year ago, when hundreds died.

"We are afraid that the devil is pitting brothers against each other and they will shed one another's blood," said Fatima Ahmed-Salama, a 40-year-old mother of six in Gaza.

Abu Adel, 65, said the internecine fighting harmed only Palestinians, not Israel. "I ask God to calm them down and make them stop before we have more dead," he added.

Abbas renewed calls for dialogue with Hamas, which won a majority in a 2006 parliamentary poll, and said an independent Palestinian committee should investigate Friday's blast.

Speaking in Cairo after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Abbas said the attack was regrettable and unacceptable, but rejected Hamas accusations that Fatah was behind it.

He said Egypt would invite representatives of Palestinian factions "within days" to dialogue sessions in Cairo.