Sat, Feb 03, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Short-lived ceasefire ends as Gaza fighting resumes

MOOD CHANGE Radio stations backing the Hamas and Fatah stopped playing national unity songs and aired songs about armed struggle and fighting the enemy


Hamas fighters blew up a pro-Fatah radio station in Gaza, ambulances were caught in the crossfire and gunmen exchanged heavy fire in deserted streets as a new wave of factional fighting raged yesterday throughout the chaotic coastal territory.

The resurgent violence, which killed four people yesterday and a total of 10 since Thursday, destroyed a brief truce between Fatah and Hamas and forced thousands of Gazans to huddle in their homes to escape the crossfire.

During the fighting, Fatah forces stormed a Hamas-affiliated university and dragged out eight people it said were Iranians helping the militant group.

In a symbol that the two sides had returned to open warfare, their respective radio stations stopped playing songs of national unity and broadcast songs about armed struggle and fighting the enemy.

More than 100 Palestinians have been killed in internal violence since Hamas won parliamentary elections last year and formed a Cabinet. In the wake of the election, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah took control of the security forces and Hamas established its own militia. The two forces have fought repeatedly in the streets, despite a series of brief truces.

Egyptian mediators blamed Hamas for violating the latest ceasefire deal by ambushing an official convoy.

Yesterday morning, 50 officers from Abbas' presidential guard surrounded the Hamas-led Interior Ministry and exchanged fire with Hamas gunmen guarding the building.

Outside of Gaza City, Hamas militants launched mortar shells at a Fatah training base in an attack that wounded 30 recruits, security officials said.

The roads of Gaza were nearly empty, sealed off by makeshift roadblocks of rubble and garbage. Only masked security officers, some with hand grenades clipped to their ammunition vests, were visible in the streets.

Fighting in northern Gaza killed two Fatah-affiliated security officers and two Hamas gunmen early yesterday, hospital officials and Hamas said.

Overnight, rival gunmen fought in the streets with mortar shells, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy caliber machine guns.

Muawiya Hassanin of the Palestinian Health Ministry said yesterday morning that 120 people had been wounded since Thursday afternoon.

Ambulances and rescue teams were caught in the crossfire all over Gaza, he said.

Hamas gunmen blew up the Fatah-affiliated Voice of Labor radio station in the northern town of Jebaliya yesterday morning after a five-hour siege, said Rasem Bayri, who heads the Palestinian Federation of Labor Unions.

The Hamas fighters pulled down a Palestinian flag flying on the roof of the building and put up a green Hamas flag, Bayri said.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops killed two armed Palestinians near the West Bank city of Ramallah early yesterday. Palestinian security officials said the men were police officers on a routine patrol.

The army said two armed men in civilian clothes approached troops on an overnight raid, and the soldiers opened fire when the men refused to put down their weapons.

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