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Armed Palestinian Factions Agree to a Ceasefire in Gaza

17 December 2006

Officials in the Gaza Strip say Palestinian factions have reached an agreement to stop fighting after days of violence threatens to sink the Palestinian territory into civil war.

Details of the agreement between the governing Hamas and the rival Fatah factions have yet to be announced.

The fighting worsened in Gaza Sunday after Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas called for early elections, which Hamas calls unconstitutional.

Gunmen kidnapped and killed a Fatah security officer, Adnan Rahmi.

Suspected Hamas militants also opened fire on pro-Fatah demonstrators in the northern Gaza Strip and fired mortars at Mr. Abbas' office. He was not there.

Fatah gunmen also seized control of two government ministries run by Hamas. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called this an attempted coup.

A 19-year-old woman was killed in the crossfire and many more civilians were wounded.

Fatah and Hamas have been locked in a power struggle ever since Hamas won legislative elections and took power in the Palestinian territories earlier this year.

Mr. Abbas said new elections are necessary after months of failed talks with Hamas, which currently controls the Parliament and government, but not the presidency.

The United States, the European Union and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist group and have cut off funding to the Hamas government, leaving it in serious financial straits.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has arrived in Tel Aviv Sunday for talks aimed at reviving peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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