JERUSALEM ó Relations between the two main Palestinian Arab rivals plumbed new depths yesterday as Fatah gunmen formally issued a death threat against three of the most senior Hamas figures, including Khaled Meshaal, the de facto leader of the Islamic group.
As Palestinian Arab politicians on all sides vainly appealed for calm, a statement issued on behalf of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said the three Hamas figures faced "execution."
Were the threat to be carried out, Gaza and the West Bank would be plunged into the worst bloodletting seen there for decades.
The three men were blamed by Fatah supporters for ordering members of the security forces loyal to Hamas to open fire on a Fatah protest rally on Sunday in which eight people died.
Twelve Palestinian Arabs have been killed and more than 100 wounded in two days of clashes between Fatah, which holds the presidency of the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, which holds the Parliament.