Gaza City: A radical sheikh was among 24 people killed and 130 wounded after Hamas police stormed a Gaza mosque when he declared an Islamic emirate in the Palestinian enclave, medics said on Saturday.
The shooting erupted yesterday following weekly prayers in Rafah, on the Egyptian border, and continued until dawn today.
"Clashes... between Hamas and an extremist group in the southern Gaza Strip left 24 people dead and at least 130 wounded," a spokesman for the Palestinian emergency services told reporters.
Four of the wounded were considered to be "clinically dead" and many more "seriously wounded," the spokesman added.
Abdul Latif Musa, identified by an internet statement from Jund Ansar Allah (Soldiers of the Partisans of God) as its leader, was killed while fighting Hamas forces besieging his house, the interior ministry said.
Witnesses reported a number of explosions there, but it was not clear how the man died. His aide Abu Abdullah as-Suri also died in the house.
Mohammed al-Shamali, the Hamas military chief for southern Gaza, and five policemen were also listed as killed, and 10 police wounded.
Witnesses said that following prayers, Musa announced the formation of the emirate.
"We are today proclaiming the creation of an Islamic Emirate in the Gaza Strip," said Musa, a 47-year-old paediatrician.
Hamas security blocked all roads to Rafah and declared the town a closed military zone. They said they have arrested about 40 members of the group so far.
Hamas government spokesman Taher Nunu said on Friday that the Hamas leadership was engaging in an operation against "outlaws" and called on Moussa`s followers to surrender to the authorities.
Jund Ansar Allah first came to public attention in June after it claimed responsibility for a failed attempt to attack Israel from Gaza on horseback.
The group claims inspiration from al Qaeda, but no ties have been confirmed.
In July, three Muslim extremists from the group holed themselves up in a building in southern Gaza, surrendering to Hamas police only after a lengthy standoff.
It is unclear how many adherents Jund Ansar Allah or other similar extremist groups have in Gaza.