Clashes erupted between supporters of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and those of Fatah's dismissed leader Mohammed Dahlan at a university in Gaza City yesterday.
Eye-witnesses told Quds Press that dozens of Abbas supporters held a demonstration in support of the PA president, who is currently on a visit to Washington, at Al-Azhar University. They were showing their support for him and encouraging him to adhere to Palestinian fundamentals; but Dahlan's supporters clashed with them using stones and sticks.
They added: "The fighting and stone-throwing continued for a while before the university's security guards stepped in."
Islam Shahwan, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, told Quds Press: "The president of Al-Azhar University asked the university's security officers to intervene to settle the quarrel that broke out between the supporters of both Abbas and Dahlan.
"Accordingly, the police intervened, ended the fight and separated the two parties. The university returned to its normal calm."
Shahwan stressed that what happened on the campus confirms that the Ministry of the Interior should not allow Fatah to organise any events that support Abbas because of clashes expected due to the internal problems between Dahlan and Abbas.
He added: "Our decision not to allow the movement of Fatah to organise any demonstration in support of President Abbas was not absurd or because we do not want to support President Abbas. Nor was it to repress freedom of expression, but it was taken to avoid bloodshed according to the information we had that there was a likelihood of problems.
"What happened on the campus of Al-Azhar University was the biggest proof. What would have happened if these fights took place outside the university's campus?"
The Ministry of the Interior called on all parties in Fatah to respect the law and public order and avoid causing any chaos in educational institutions.
Shahwan said: "The Ministry will not allow anyone to spread the manifestations of chaos and lawlessness and will take all legal actions necessary to achieve this."