EREZ BORDER CROSSING, Israel — The militant Islamist group Hamas seized control of most of the Gaza Strip yesterday in coordinated attacks on Palestinian security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas, controlling major roadways and setting up sniper positions atop the territory’s biggest buildings.
By the end of the day, fighters of Mr. Abbas‘ secular Fatah faction had been reduced to pockets of resistance in Gaza City, and Hamas issued an ultimatum giving Fatah gunmen 48 hours to lay down their weapons.
The unexpectedly swift wave of Hamas victories arguably marks the first successful coup attempt by an Islamist political group in an Arab state.
It raised the specter among Israel, the U.S. and moderate Arab nations that the coastal strip of 1.5 million people is becoming an Islamic fundamentalist mini-state — an entity sometimes referred to as “Hamastan.”
“The Fatah guys are running out of ammunition. It’s hard to fight,” said one source familiar with the situation in Gaza. “One battalion in Gaza City had to fall back because they ran out of ammunition.”
Gaza’s roads were filled with dozens of roadblocks manned by rival militias, though many referred to the coastal strip as having gone “green,” the color symbolic of Islam and Hamas‘ banner.
The European Union’s foreign-policy chief, Javier Solana, said the EU would consider participating in a multinational force if asked. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he discussed the possible deployment with nations on the Security Council yesterday.