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Palestinian factions strike new cease-fire deal - Hamas spokesman

RIA Novosti

19/05/2007 16:31 GAZA, May 19 (RIA Novosti) - Rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah declared a new ceasefire as of 3 p.m. local time (12 p.m. GMT) Saturday, after a week of violence between the factions that resulted in over 50 deaths, a Hamas spokesman said.

The recent outbreak of violence is the first since March, when a national unity government was formed with Saudi mediation. In the past week, numerous attempts to broker a truce have been quickly upset by skirmishes.

The sides have agreed to exchange hostages and pull their fighters from the streets, Hamas spokesman Fauzi Barhoum said, adding that a special commission had been formed to monitor the observance of the agreement.

The pro-presidential Fatah and the more belligerent Hamas, two religious Islamic groups dominating politics in the Palestinian territories, have been fighting a relentless turf war since Hamas gained control of the government in a democratic election last year.

Hamas has refused to recognize Israel and has repeatedly criticized PNA President Mahmoud Abbas for his policies.

The Israeli government said earlier it had abandoned its policy of 'restraint' toward Palestinian militants and retaliated against rocket attacks from Gaza with a number of air strikes in recent days, as fighting continues between Palestinian factions.

At least 22 people have been killed in Israeli air strikes on Gaza in the past week, the majority of them activists of an armed wing of the governing Hamas movement.

The Israeli Air Force Thursday attacked the headquarters of a special purpose unit of the Palestinian Interior Ministry, purportedly controlled by the Hamas movement and manned by Islamist militants.

At least two people were killed and 20 injured, while the building was completely destroyed, local television said citing eyewitness accounts.

On Friday, at least three Palestinians were killed and five injured in an Israeli air strike on a van carrying Hamas activists in the Gaza City, the PNA Health Ministry said.

"The dead were taken to a local hospital literally piece by piece," Dr. Muavia Hasanen, head of the Health Ministry Emergencies Department, told a RIA Novosti correspondent.

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