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Fighting Continues in Gaza Strip Despite Truce

15 May 2007

Factional fighting continued for a third day in the Gaza Strip. At least 10 people were reported killed, including eight in one incident, during heavy fighting between Hamas and Fatah gunmen. VOA's Jim Teeple has the latest from our Jerusalem Bureau.

Fighting sharply escalated when Hamas gunmen attacked Fatah forces guarding the Karni Crossing - the main cargo crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip. For the first time since fighting between the factions began Sunday, Israeli troops at the crossing point fired on Palestinian gunmen.

Hamas and Fatah gunmen also continued their battles in the streets of Gaza, a day after the Palestinian interior minister resigned, saying he was powerless to stop the violence.

The Palestinian cabinet, which is made up members from both factions, has so far failed to settle on a replacement - agreeing Monday to give temporary control of the Interior Ministry to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a leading Hamas militant.

Spokesman Ghazi Hamad says, for now, the priority is to stop the violence.

"The president has given orders to all security forces to withdraw from the streets and I think Hamas and Fatah have both given orders to their elements to stop all military conflict," said Hamad.

The latest fighting began after a senior Fatah commander was gunned down, several days ago. Tensions have been high in Gaza for a week, after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Fatah, deployed 3,000 police under his control. Hamas has its own 6,000 member militia, the so-called Executive Force in Gaza.

There are about 80,000 armed gunmen in the Palestinian territories loyal to either Hamas or Fatah.

Fighting between the factions has been ongoing, since Hamas won legislative elections, last year. Earlier this year, a Saudi Arabian-sponsored diplomatic initiative, known as the Mecca Agreement, managed to stop the fighting and led to the formation of a unity government made up of both factions and independents.

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