Palestinian police raided the West Bank home of a rival of President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, deepening a feud that has shaken the upper ranks of the ruling Fatah Party.
The raid targeted Mohammed Dahlan, a former security chief in the Gaza Strip who was expelled from Fatah in June because of his repeated criticism of the president.
A Dahlan aide said police arrested 23 guards and assistants, and confiscated 16 guns, a computer and two vehicles. The troops then circled Dahlan's home but didn't detain him. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to the media.
Adnan Dameri, spokesman of the Palestinian Interior Ministry, said the guns and security guards were illegal. "No one can hire guards with guns without having the approval" of the government, he said.
Dameri added that 10,000 rounds of ammunition were found in Dahlan's house and that the vehicles seized were armored.
Dahlan was widely blamed by colleagues for the 2007 loss of Gaza to Fatah's rivals, the militant Hamas group, when he was the security chief in the strip. He has also been accused of illegally enriching himself through corruption.
He and Abbas have been feuding since Dahlan criticized the Palestinian leader in meetings with activists several months ago. Dahlan says Abbas is a weak leader who is nonetheless trying to run Fatah like a dictator. He also accuses the Palestinian president of allowing his sons to profit financially from his rule.
Sufian Abu Zaydeh, a former Palestinian minister and Dahlan associate, assailed the raid.
"President Abbas is responsible for this because he is the one who issued the orders," he said. "The procedure against Dahlan is meant to send a message that he should leave the country and never try to appeal against the unjust decision of discharging him from the party."