GAZA CITY -- A Palestinian militant with ties to Hamas was killed in a car bombing yesterday, unleashing factional unrest that left three others dead and 35 wounded, in the first direct threat to the Islamic group's new government.
Followers of the militant blamed security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement for the assassination, raising the possibility of wider clashes two days after Hamas assumed power.
The militant, Abu Yousef Abu Quka, was a senior commander of the Popular Resistance Committees, an umbrella group of about 200 gunmen that has been linked to explosions of Israeli tanks and a deadly attack on a US diplomatic convoy in 2003.
About half the gunmen are allied with Hamas, including Abu Quka, and the other half with Fatah. Abu Quka's supporters blamed the Fatah-dominated Preventive Security Services for his assassination; a shootout at the militant's funeral killed the three others and wounded 35.
Hamas took control of the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday after trouncing Fatah in legislative elections in January. It has pledged to restore order in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, but Palestinian security forces, most of them affiliated with Fatah, are involved in the violence, and Hamas has little control over them.
Abbas, a moderate who favors peace talks with Israel, is a vocal critic of violence but has struggled to gain control over the security forces since his election last year.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh ordered an investigation into the killing and urged calm. ''I want to stress the need not to slide toward civil war," he said in a televised interview. ''Let us not direct our arrows at each other."
Haniyeh's government held an emergency meeting last night to discuss the violence. Haniyeh left without speaking to reporters.
The ministers formed an investigative committee and pledged to remove ''armed men" from the streets of Gaza, Information Minister Yousef Rizka said. Gaza has been ravaged by lawlessness in recent months, with gunmen roaming the streets with impunity. Many of the gunmen have links to Fatah.
Hamas's interior minister, Said Siyam, who is in charge of several security agencies, including preventive security, promised to bring Abu Quka's killers to justice. He also called for unity. ''We regret the exchange of accusations and mentioning of names," he said.
Abu Quka was killed when his car blew up on a Gaza City street. The Popular Resistance Committees initially blamed Israel, which denied involvement, and then pointed to the Preventive Security Service.
Abu Abir, a Popular Resistance spokesman, said gunmen loyal to Mohammed Dahlan, the former Preventive Security Service chief in Gaza and a Fatah lawmaker in the new parliament, were caught spying on Abu Quka's home Thursday.
Despite Fatah's election loss, Dahlan remains one of the wealthiest and most powerful figures in Gaza, with hundreds of gunmen, including Preventive Security members, loyal to him.
Dahlan, who was in the United Arab Emirates, dismissed the allegations as ''baseless ugly accusations."
Palestinian intelligence officials said Abu Quka was a known Hamas supporter, and appeared to have been targeted for his loyalties. The officials, fearing for their safety, spoke on condition of anonymity.
When Abu Abir called a news conference to discuss the killing, rival gunmen burst onto the scene, sparking a shootout.
Hospital officials said two boys, ages 15 and 13, were wounded, one seriously.
Hospital officials said the gunfire at Abu Quka's funeral killed three people.