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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 March, 2005, 13:10 GMT
Gunmen storm Fatah reform meeting
Aqsa Brigade member in the West Bank
Aqsa Brigades are accused of causing chaos in some towns
Palestinian gunmen have stormed a meeting of the mainstream Fatah faction in the West Bank firing into the air and smashing furniture.

Fatah officials were meeting to discuss a standoff over internal reforms ahead of July parliamentary elections.

The meeting was broken up by about 50 Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades members, a militant off-shoot of Fatah, forcing officials to flee, AFP reported.

It is the latest in a series of armed confrontations between Fatah members.

The gunmen shouted complaints they had not been invited to the meeting, in the city of Ramallah, and were being marginalised by the Fatah leadership, Reuters reported.

"We will not allow anyone to ignore us because we have paid with blood in this conflict [with Israel]," one gunman reportedly shouted.

Death threat

The gunmen reportedly ordered everyone to leave the room and threatened to kill anyone who stayed behind.

The incident ended with the gunmen leaving the building.

Hussein al-Sheikh, a young Fatah leader, said the incident would "not deter us from modernising Fatah on a democratic footing".

"Certain officials had campaigned against the meeting," he is quoted as saying by AFP, in an apparent reference to old allies of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who are said to be hostile to reform.

AFP says 250 local members in Gaza City have resigned over internal chaos within the faction.

Fatah, led by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, is the ruling force in the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian parliament.

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