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11 dead as Hamas battles Gaza clan

The faction has sought to consolidate control and contain rivals.

September 17, 2008|Rushdi Abu Alouf and Ashraf Khalil | Special to The Times

GAZA CITY — A night of clashes between Hamas forces and one of Gaza's strongest armed clans left 11 people dead, including an infant, and at least 40 wounded.

The battle, which ended early Tuesday, began when police officers surrounded the Dagmoush clan compound in Gaza City, demanding that it turn over a family member accused of killing a police officer.

Gunfire and explosions were heard through the night in the Sabra neighborhood. By morning, the police were claiming victory, saying that nine Dagmoush fighters, including the wanted man, had been slain and several arrested.

One police officer was killed, as well as the 5-month-old daughter of one of the family members, police said.

Police spokesman Islam Shahwan called the operation a success and said officers had seized weapons and explosives.

The Dagmoush family is a large, independent and widely feared clan suspected of being heavily involved in drug and weapons trafficking.

Hamas, since routing the Fatah faction and taking control of Gaza last year, has sought to establish order on the streets and suppress potential challenges to its authority.

In the complex network of Gazan political and blood loyalties, the Dagmoushes are scattered throughout the different factions, including Hamas. One of its most prominent members, Mumtaz Dagmoush, heads the Army of Islam, a radical group that has butted heads with Hamas and was responsible for last year's kidnapping of BBC reporter Alan Johnston. Shortly after taking over Gaza, Hamas confronted the faction and secured Johnston's release.

Fatah, the Hamas rival that lost parliamentary elections in 2006 and now controls only the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, condemned the overnight crackdown, which occurred during Ramadan.

"Such shameful practices of Hamas in the holy month of Ramadan are definite proof that Hamas has lost all humanitarian and religious values," Fatah spokesman Fahmi Zaarir said in a statement.

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ashraf.khalil@latimes.com

Special correspondent Abu Alouf reported from Gaza City and Times staff writer Khalil from Jerusalem.

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