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At Least 4 Palestinians Killed in Factional Fighting in Gaza

13 May 2007

At least four Palestinians have been killed in a surge of fighting between rival factions in the Gaza Strip. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the clashes erupted as the Israeli Cabinet discussed a response to Palestinian rocket attacks.

An ambush that killed a senior militant from the Fatah faction and his bodyguard set off a wave of violence in Gaza.

A gun battle erupted at the funeral as Fatah militants called for revenge against the Islamic militant group Hamas which was blamed for the shooting.

Retaliation came quickly. First, Fatah gunmen killed two Hamas men outside a mosque. Then, a well-known religious scholar from Hamas was abducted as he returned from evening prayers, one of about 10 reported kidnappings.

It was the worst fighting since Hamas and Fatah agreed to a national unity government two months ago.

Tensions rose last week, when the Fatah-dominated security forces deployed 3,000 men in Gaza City under a new security plan aimed at restoring law and order. That angered Hamas which charged that Fatah did not coordinate the move with them.

The tension in Gaza coincided with a meeting of Israel's Security Cabinet, which discussed a military response to continuing Palestinian rocket attacks. The army presented a series of options, but the government decided against a major offensive in Gaza.

Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim.

"It will be a mistake to make a huge military operation, but I think that we should react to the terror that is launching from Gaza towards Israeli settlements," said Ze'ev Boim.

The army says some 240 rockets have been fired at Israel since the cease-fire began five months ago. And Israeli officials have made it clear that they are running out of patience.

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