Hamas pushed an offensive against Fatah yesterday after assuming control over northern Gaza in vicious battles that left the government teetering and the territory on the verge of civil war.
A huge blast levelled the headquarters of the pro-Fatah preventive security force in southern Gaza yesterday. The building in Khan Yunis was "totally destroyed" after a bomb exploded in a tunnel underneath, said the chief of the force, Yussef Eissa, blaming Hamas for the attack.
At least three people died, medics said.
Hamas denied it had placed explosives in a tunnel.
Earlier in the day, dozens of Hamas fighters fired mortars and rockets into the headquarters of the pro-Fatah intelligence services in western Gaza City, facing stiff resistance from the men holed up inside, witnesses and security sources said.
Seven people died in the fighting around the building, while a boy was mowed down in the crossfire in clashes elsewhere in the city, and two people died in fighting near Khan Younis, medics said.
Hamas took control over the north of the Gaza Strip late on Tuesday after a vicious battle around a Fatah base in the town of Jabaliya that fell to the Islamists late in the night, along with several other smaller positions.
The Islamist movement's armed wing claimed in a statement that it was controlling "most of the positions" of secular Fatah in Gaza City and that numerous Fatah men had surrendered. Fatah had no immediate comment.
More than 50 people, including civilians, have been killed in three days of vicious gunbattles between the bitter rivals, separated by ideology and locked in a steadily escalating struggle for power.
The US-based Human Rights Watch accused both sides of committing war crimes and serious violations of international humanitarian law during their battles, which have turned hospitals into battlegrounds amid ever-rising levels of animosity between the two camps.
The violence has threatened to topple the Palestinian Cabinet and torpedo international efforts to revive dormant peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
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