3 Aug 2008

Israel returns Fatah fugitives to Gaza

10:08 pm on 3 August 2008

Israel has begun returning a group of 180 Palestinians to Gaza after they were granted refuge in Israel amid deadly fighting between rivals Hamas and Fatah.

The men, members of a clan allied to Fatah, were allowed into Israel after fighting left nine dead on Saturday.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Fatah, told Israel not to transfer them to the West Bank, as he had earlier requested.

At least 30 have already been returned to Gaza, Israeli officials have said.

Israel opened the border after both Egypt and President Abbas asked for the men to be allowed in.

Israel also agreed to an initial request by Palestinian Authority leaders to send the men to the West Bank.

However, Israel's defence ministry now says Mr Abbas has asked for the group to be sent back into Gaza.