GAZA, May 18 (Nidal al-Mughrabi - Reuters) - Hamas
Islamists ruling the Gaza Strip
have been demolishing Palestinian homes they say were built without permits, leading to unwelcome comparisons to arch-enemy Israel
Hamas has proven to be identical to the Israeli occupation, Ahmed Assaf, a spokesman for the rival Fatah
movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
, said on Tuesday. Fatah lost the Gaza Strip to Hamas in fighting in 2007.
Israeli forces often carried out home demolitions in the southern Gaza town of Rafah
, along the Egyptian border, during a Palestinian uprising
that began in 2000, saying the dwellings provided cover for militants.
A US pro-Palestinian activist, Rachel Corrie, was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer there in 2003 while protesting against Israeli demolitions. The Rafah area was also heavily damaged during Israel's 2009 Gaza war
On Sunday, Hamas carried out a series of demolitions -- it says it destroyed 11 illegally-built homes and local residents put the number at 26 -- in Rafah.
Hamas said such criticism is politically motivated.
Issa al-Nashar, Rafah's mayor and a Hamas member, said the Gaza government would continue to carry out demolitions and target land dealers who built private property on state land.
Tightening its control of the Gaza Strip -- and angering many residents -- Hamas has begun to collect taxes and enforce property rules, all part of what it says is good governance.
Owners of the disputed tracts in Rafah said the land has been owned by their families since the 1940s.
Issa Al-Sdodi, an employee of the previous Fatah-led administration, said Hamas policemen accompanied by bulldozers knocked down his three-storey house without advance notice.
I put my savings into building it and now my family of 10 is homeless, Sdodi told Reuters.
Fatheya al-Ghezawi, 52, sat in the sand with her daughter near the rubble of her home, which had housed her family of 15.
She said she fled Gaza city
last year after the house she had been renting was destroyed by Israeli forces.
This time, it wasn't the Jews. It is Islam against Islam, Ghezawi said.