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Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2007, 10:04 GMT
Frustration over Ramallah violence
By Martin Patience
BBC News, Ramallah

Burnt shop in Ramallah
Burnt shops in Ramallah are a sign of simmering tensions

Abdullah Daragma has been left counting the cost of the latest inter-factional Palestinian violence.

His department store was set on fire following a night of unrest in Ramallah when gangs of militants roamed the city targeting a number of shops and businesses.

"You have as much idea as me as to why this happened," says Mr Daragma, 47, wearing a smart leather tan jacket at the entrance of the store.


Inside the store, the floors are black from the soot. Clothes, shoes, and other items are ruined.

On the counter, a melted till sits. A strong acrid smell of smoke still lingers.

Curious onlookers come to look at the damage. Some offer words of consolation.

"Thank God everyone is safe," says one woman to Mr Daragma. "It could have been worse."

They are just a bunch of idiots. Why are they firing bullets in the air? They can't even shoot straight
Amal Baker, music teacher

While Mr Daragma takes comfort from his friends and neighbours, what worries him the most is the continuing violence between the two main Palestinian factions - Hamas and Fatah - on the streets.

Like many residents of this city, Mr Daragma says that the growing lawlessness in Palestinian society means that ordinary people are paying the price.

"Everybody suffers," he says. "I suffer, the shop's employees suffer, the economy suffers and our country suffers. What is the point of this?"


While many Palestinians are used to the 39-year-long Israeli occupation, the recent inter-factional violence is a more recent phenomenon.

Tensions have grown steadily since the militant group Hamas was elected almost a year ago, ousting Fatah, which had previously dominated Palestinian politics.

Palestinian militants in Ramallah
The Palestinian territories are in danger of descending into gun law
In recent weeks, more than 30 Palestinians have been killed in clashes between the two main militant groups across the West Bank and Gaza.

Gun battles often explode out of nowhere. Shops and businesses associated with particular factions have been torched. But Mr Daragma insists he is not affiliated to any faction.

Here in Ramallah, ordinary Palestinians are wondering where all the violence is going to lead.

A senior mukhtar - a village elder - in Ramallah says that this is the worst type of violence he has ever seen.

The 81-year-old, dressed in flowing Arab robes, does not want his name mentioned as he believes he works better behind the scenes.

At the mukhtar's home, he says many friends and neighbours - old and young - have come to express their concern about the worsening situation.


"I always say to them," says the mukhtar, "that we must fight the Israelis and not ourselves."

On a day-to-day level life in Ramallah appears to be continuing as normal: children are going to school, people are out working or shopping.

But many Palestinians say that life is becoming harder because of the violence.

Apart from the shooting and arson, cultural events have been cancelled, and there are frequent strikes - meaning all the shops are closed, sometimes for several days.

These strikes are often enforced by the armed militants of the various Palestinian factions when one of their members is killed either by the Israeli army or as a result of inter-factional violence.

Some people are becoming nervous walking on the streets.

Insurance Claim

"When you see a demonstration you get concerned," says Amal Baker, 27, a music teacher.

"In the past you always knew it would be against Israel or the West but now we're demonstrating against ourselves."

In the past three months, Ms Baker says she has been forced to take cover from gunfire in shops five times.

"They are just a bunch of idiots," she says, referring to the Palestinian militants. "Why are they firing bullets in the air? They can't even shoot straight."

Back at Mr Daragma's shop, a representative of a local insurance company is assessing the damage.

Mr Daragma says that once the insurance claim is approved he will start the clean-up. He hopes to back in business within a month.

"We need to start straightaway," he says. "I need to get my 20 employees back to work."

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