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Thousands of Fatah March in West Bank

Fatah activists marched to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' compound, police briefly stormed the parliament building in Gaza and security forces clashed with Hamas gunmen on Saturday as the long-ruling party lashed out in anger for its devastating election loss.

Fears over the future of the security forces under a Hamas-led government added to the chaos.

Most of the 58,000 security officers are allied with Fatah and worry that they will lose their jobs. The Islamic militant group, which won a majority in Wednesday's parliamentary vote, has its own armed force of about 5,000 gunmen in the Gaza Strip.

"The security forces will stay. Hamas has no power meddling with the security forces," Jibril Rajoub, Abbas' national security adviser, told the hundreds of Fatah activists at Abbas' compound.

The group, which included gunmen, marched to the compound in Ramallah and peacefully prayed at Yasser Arafat's grave. "We came to you Abu Amar to forgive us for what happened," they chanting, referring to the late Palestinian leader by his nickname.

Abbas' security force prevented the activists from approaching his nearby office in the compound, known as the muqaata. Outside the compound, some militants shot in the air.

The marchers earlier demonstrated at the Palestinian parliament building in Ramallah, where several gunmen climbed on the roof and fired in the air to the cheers and whistles from supporters below.

In Gaza, dozens of armed police officers — some wearing masks, others wearing Fatah headbands — briefly stormed the parliament building there, demanding an immediate trial for Hamas members who killed police in fighting in recent months. They also demanded the security forces remain in Fatah's hands.

Earlier Saturday in Gaza, Hamas gunmen wounded two Palestinian policemen in what authorities said was a roadside ambush, hours after two officers and a Hamas activist were wounded in another firefight. One of the officers remained in a coma Saturday from a bullet wound to the head.

Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader in Gaza, addressed the growing fears in a mosque sermon Friday, saying there would be no purge of the security forces. However, it appeared inevitable that Hamas will want to replace many of the officers with their own loyalists.

Wednesday's election exposed deep tensions within Palestinian society and was a clear rebuke to Fatah for its corruption and inability to maintain order. Before the vote, veteran Fatah leaders, those most tainted by corruption allegations, resisted repeated calls for reform by the Fatah young guard.

The protests began Friday, soon after Abbas said he would ask Hamas to form the next government.

Haniyeh said he asked Abbas to meet Sunday to discuss the government, but Abbas' office said no appointment had been made. Hamas, which has no experience in governing, took 76 of the 132 parliament seats up for grabs.

In Damascus, Syria, Hamas' top leader Khaled Mashaal reiterated Saturday that his group seeks a partnership with all political parties but also wants to reform the government. In a reference to Fatah, Mashaal warned that those "who might try block the work because they are out of power" would be held responsible if reforms are blocked.

Finger-pointing increased within Fatah, meanwhile, following the defeat, which ended four decades of the party's dominance in Palestinian politics.

Demonstrators demanded the resignation of the party's entire central committee, although only a few said that should include Abbas — who was elected last year to a four-year term as Palestinian Authority president.

About 2,000 Fatah members marched through the West Bank city of Nablus, led by dozens of gunmen from the Fatah-allied Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, who fired in the air from the back of a truck.

"We are now no longer part of the cease-fire," one of the gunmen, Nasser Haras, told the crowd. Palestinian militant groups agreed last year to a cease-fire with Israel.

In Bethlehem, about 400 activists took over the party's local office and demanded the resignation of party leaders. In Tulkarem, gunman Ibrahim Khreisheh warned against cooperating with Hamas. "Whoever will participate in a government with Hamas, we will shoot him in the head," he said.

Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Shaath, who ran the failed Fatah campaign, blamed the defeat on dozens of Fatah politicians who ran as independents after not getting a place on the party slate. "This led to a split of the votes, and prevented us from winning in many districts," he said.

The Fatah Revolutionary Council, a secondary party organ, on Friday expelled six members who had run as independents and lost. About 150 other renegade candidates were ordered expelled from the party.

The car of one of the independents, Burhan Jarar, was torched Saturday in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas' ideologue, said the group might form a government of technocrats with no connection to Hamas, a move that could relieve some of the international pressure on the group.

Israel, caught off guard by the Hamas parliamentary landslide after its vaunted intelligence services predicted a slim Fatah victory, has said it would have no contacts with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas.

Hamas, responsible for dozens of suicide bombings on Israelis, has long called for the destruction of the Jewish state. In recent years, some Hamas leaders grudgingly accepted the idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, but only as a stage toward freeing the rest of Palestine — meaning Israel.

President Bush said Friday in a television interview with "CBS Evening News" that the United States would cut aid to the Palestinian government unless Hamas abolishes the militant arm of its party and stops calling for the destruction of Israel.

Hamas is listed as a terror organization by the United States and the European Union. If the group fails to change its ways, Bush said, "we won't deal with them."

Jacob Walles, the U.S. consul-general in Jerusalem, said the United States gives $400 million a year to the Palestinian Authority.

A Palestinian Cabinet minister, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, said the government would have to fire 30,000 of its 137,000 employees immediately if aid was cut.

Israeli officials said they will make a decision soon on whether to stop transferring taxes and import duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, which make up about two-thirds of the authority's revenue.

Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defense Ministry official, said Israel would not grant free movement to newly elected Hamas members between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.