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Hamas arrests five suspects over raid on Palestinian Authority media station in Gaza

Hamas says all five suspects are former employees of PA whose salaries were recently suspended
Employee inspects damage at PA radio and TV station in Gaza on Friday (AFP)

Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip arrested five men on Saturday on suspicion of ransacking the offices of the Palestinian Authority's media headquarters, Hamas's interior ministry said.

Five armed men entered the offices of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) in Gaza City on Friday, official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported. During the raid workers were assaulted and equipment was destroyed.

"At least five people broke into the building, broke the radio door and completely destroyed the main studio, including cameras, equipment, furniture and broadcasting equipment," a staffer at the radio station said.

The PBC is funded by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and its Gaza office shares a building that hosts several media outlets including Palestine TV, the mouthpiece of the PA, and the Voice of Palestine radio station.

The incident underscored tensions between President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA), based in the occupied West Bank, and Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, Reuters said. Staff and a PA official initially blamed the raid on Hamas.

Still, Hamas said on Saturday that all five suspects were former employees of the PA whose salaries were recently suspended. There was no immediate response from the Palestinian Authority.

Masked men raid Palestinian Authority media office in Gaza Strip
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There has long been antipathy between Hamas, which won the last Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 and is opposed to any peace negotiations with Israel, and with Abbas's more moderate and secular Fatah faction.

The two rivals have tried and failed to end the divisions. Egypt has brokered a Palestinian reconciliation pact that provides for Hamas to cede control of Gaza to Abbas, but a dispute over power-sharing has hindered implementation.

Hamas seized control of Gaza from the PA in 2007, a year after winning parliamentary elections that were rejected by much of the international community.

Despite losing power in the enclave, the PA continues to pay tens of thousands of civil servants there, although it has reduced salaries in recent years amid financial shortfalls, causing anger among its employees.

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