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Hamas and Fatah terrorist rumble in Gaza leaves 6 dead - Fatah gang members trash Hamas head Haniyeh's office

October 1, 2006

Six dead in clashes between rival Palestinian forces

1 October 2006

GAZA - Rival Palestinian security forces clashed across the Gaza Strip on Sunday, killing six and injuring 50 others, in the biggest outbreak of internal fighting in months over unpaid wages and stalled unity government talks.

Violence also erupted in the West Bank city of Ramallah where supporters of President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah started a small fire inside the offices of the Hamas-led government.

The flare-up stoked fears of civil war as the rival forces, loyal to the Islamist Hamas movement and Abbas, fired at each other from rooftops near parliament building in Gaza City. Smoke from burning tyres wafted overhead as pedestrians ran for cover.

Three Palestinian civilians, including a boy, a security officer and a Hamas militant were killed in the clashes. A member of Abbas's presidential guard was shot dead in a firefight about 100 metres from Abbas's Gaza home.

Most of those wounded in Gaza City and the town of Khan Younis were civilians, including schoolchildren, medics said. A cameraman for Al-Arabiya television was also among the wounded.

Fatah and Hamas traded blame for the violence, which came as about 50 Israeli tanks pushed into northern Gaza, Palestinian security sources said. The army said the incursion was aimed at preventing militants from firing make-shift rockets into Israel.

Palestinian tensions rose after Interior Minister Saeed Seyam of Hamas ordered his security forces to take to the streets to prevent further violence by striking policemen demanding overdue salaries.

Most wounded civilians

Abbas has been locked in an increasingly bitter power struggle with the government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh over stalled efforts to form a unity coalition after Hamas trounced Fatah in parliamentary elections in January.

Palestinians hoped a unity government would ease Western sanctions that have prevented the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority from paying full salaries to civil servants for more than six months.

But the talks broke down after Abbas accused Hamas of reneging on a commitment to accept past peace deals with Israel.

Protesting police, loyal to Abbas, blocked Gaza roads with burning tyres and paramilitary troops clashed with the Hamas-led force in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

Earlier in Gaza City, Hamas security men stormed the house of a senior member of the Preventive Security force loyal to Abbas. Five bodyguards were seized from the house, Hamas said.

"Hamas and Fatah are responsible for the current bloodshed. Haniyeh and Abbas are to blame for their failure to resolve their political differences," said Abu Saleh, 38, in GAza.

In Ramallah, protesters rampaged through the prime minister's office building, breaking windows and smashing equipment. Firefighters extinguished the flames.

Two cars were set ablaze, but there were no reports of injuries.

Senior Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri blamed the clashes on Fatah, accusing pro-Fatah police of going on strike to "weaken Hamas and to topple the government".

Tawfiq Abu Khoussa, a spokesman of Fatah, accused Hamas of "shedding Palestinian blood" and of using excessive force, including anti-tank rockets, to end the strike.

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