JERUSALEM - Palestinian militants and security forces exchanged fire for three hours before dawn yesterday in Gaza, the second day in a row of armed clashes. The house of the Gaza commander of preventive security, Gen. Rashid Abu Shbak, was shot up by the militants, who also fired a rocket-propelled grenade at it, witnesses said.
Witnesses said at least three people suffered injuries, but officially none were reported, and no arrests have been made.
Militants have staged demonstrations and clashed with security forces because they say they are being denied jobs in the Palestinian security services and because they are angry at being asked to stop displaying their guns in public.
The latest shootout stemmed from an argument Thursday night when officers of the Gaza preventive security forces stopped a car containing two members of the Palestinian Resistance Committee, a local militant group with good relations with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The militants refused to leave the car and drove away. Abu Abeer, a spokesman for the resistance committee, said police shot up the car and injured Mohmen Doghmosh in the foot and shoulder. Doghmosh is from a large Gaza family known for its access to weapons.
Early yesterday morning, members of the resistance committee and the Doghmosh family and its allies - as many as 40 armed men, witnesses said - shot up the house of Shbak, fired at his car, and then clashed with preventive security.
Abeer confirmed these details and said the committees were demanding that the policeman who shot Doghmosh, Raed Abu Hatab, himself be shot in the leg.
"We ask the Palestinian Authority to think this way, that all Palestinian blood is equal," Abeer said. "The people in the resistance are also partners in making decisions and in protecting the Palestinian house, equal with the Palestinian Authority and security forces."
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has said he wants to restore order in Gaza and wants "one government, one law and one gun." But he returned to the West Bank from Gaza yesterday without commenting on the shootout after meetings with lower-level representatives from Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Abbas, as part of his discussions with the militants to get them to continue to abide by a truce with Israel, agreed to release nine Islamic Jihad militants who had been jailed in the West Bank city of Jericho after a Feb. 25 suicide bombing at a nightclub in Tel Aviv that killed five Israelis.
Two of the prisoners, Sadiq Odeh and Jasser Kob, were released late Thursday after the Palestinian Authority decided that they had not been involved in the bombing.
Israeli officials have interpreted Abbas' actions as a sign of weakness. They say he will have to confront the militants and show that the Palestinian Authority is the supreme power in the territories or lose his credibility.
Tawfiq Abu Khoussa, a spokesman for the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza, said of the shootout: "We're investigating. And we won't stay silent to those who violate the public order." Asked about the demand to shoot Hatab in the leg, he said: "We stand for the law."