Friday, June 15, 2007

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Clouds of dense black smoke hung over the Intelligence Security Service headquarters, grandiosely constructed to appear like a large ship about to sail into the nearby Mediterranean Sea.

The building was not set ablaze. Instead, the crowd had poured gasoline over a line of green buses parked outside and set them on fire.

Inside the building, masked gunmen struggled to control looters. Papers culled from secret files floated from the smashed windows in the still afternoon air.

Members of the normally disciplined Hamas militia were driving off with booty that included tables and swivel chairs — part of a general pattern of looting after the capture of security buildings throughout the Gaza Strip.

“We’re taking all this away to protect the equipment,” one Hamas gunman said. “We plan to blow these buildings up because they symbolize our previous tyranny.”

Another gunman ran out of the building, firing his Kalashnikov into their air. “We have killed the traitor Samih Madhun,” he yelled. “We will, God willing, kill all those evil men who looked after the Zionists’ interests.”

Mr. Madhun, a hard-line Fatah commander, was on a list of men wanted by Hamas. He was found inside a tall building, set on fire by angry crowds and shot in the street, with bystanders and Hamas militants spitting on his body.

Another senior Fatah militant also was killed, and guards protecting the home of key Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan were urged, on the Hamas radio station, to surrender with their hands up.

The intelligence building was widely seen here as an American creation that housed Palestinian officials who were carrying out an American-dominated agenda.

Officials in the Intelligence Security Service have denied any such conspiracy, pointing out that a top priority was to catch “collaborators” — men paid by Israel to provide information on Palestinian militants.

An Israeli F-16 missile smashed a huge crater in a field adjacent to the building last month. Those inside interpreted the assault as a warning not to be too thorough in uncovering collaborators.

A debate within Hamas has ensued over the future of captured buildings, which include the headquarters for other security agencies such as the Preventive Security Service.

They include a huge complex originally used by the British, and by the Egyptians and the Israelis. Some smaller buildings were set on fire, and at least one was dynamited after capture.

In front of one of the buildings that had been set on fire, two truckloads of gun-waving masked Hamas militants displayed their greatest military gain: a huge “Dushka” Russian-made heavy gun.

“We found it in the home of one of the Fatah leaders we attacked,” said one Hamas gunman. “We are now far better armed than we were three days ago, thanks to those who’ve been supplying Fatah with weapons — like the United States.”

{bullet}Distributed by World News & Features

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