Agreement to end violence


Summary

The death toll on the fourth day of factional bloodshed rose after a member of the Palestinian security services loyal to the Fatah faction was killed.

Hassan Swidan was killed in clashes in the Tal al-Hawa neighbourhood of Gaza City, where fierce fighting between the Islamist Hamas and its secular rival Fatah was underway, security sources said.

Earlier, the home of a top Fatah security official was raided by Hamas gunmen leaving five of his bodyguards dead.

Violence escalated in Gaza despite a Palestinian truce deal.

The attack on the house of Rashid Abu Shbak in a southern neighbourhood of Gaza City came hours after the rival factions announced they had agreed another truce to end the bloodiest violence here for months.

Sixteen people were killed in factional fighting Tuesday, the bloodiest day here since Islamist group Hamas and the Fatah movement headed by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas agreed to forge a unity government in February.

Members of the military wing of Hamas, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, stormed Mr Shbak's house and killed "at least four of his guards," Fatah spokesman Abdel Hakim Awat said, later putting the death toll at five.

He said the gunmen also set fire to part of the house and briefly detained Mr Shbak's wife and daughter before fleeing the scene.

The attack brings to 29 the number of people killed in factional fighting here in the past four days, and came despite a truce which was supposed to have taken effect at midnight Tuesday.

Like two other ceasefires announced since Saturday, the latest truce appeared dead in the water as gunfire and explosions echoed through Gaza overnight.

"Hamas and Fatah met to apply the agreements of recent days putting in place a ceasefire at midnight, as well as a common control centre," the two groups said in a statement late Tuesday.

It said the deal, negotiated with the help of Egyptian mediators, included the lifting of barricades and the release of hostages from both sides.

No sooner had the announcement been made than one of the Egyptian mediators was injured when gunmen opened fire on a convoy of Fatah and Hamas leaders after they failed to stop at a barricade, sources said.

Eight officers in the Abbas-controlled national security service were killed near Karni and more than 20 wounded on Tuesday, a medical source said, in the bloodiest attack in Gaza since the new government took office on March 17.

Eight people died in other clashes elsewhere Tuesday.

Gaza City was deserted except for prowling gangs of masked men.

The fighting, on top of Monday's resignation of interior minister Hani al-Qawasmeh, has dealt a major blow to the national unity government set up by Fatah and Hamas to quell factionalism.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday he was "gravely concerned" over the violence and the United States, which has led a Western boycott of the Hamas ministers in Ismail Haniya's government, called for a halt to the bloodshed.

The national security force accused a Hamas paramilitary force and the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades of trying to stage a coup.

The service said its officers scrambled to reinforce the presidential guard camp near Karni on Tuesday when they came under Israeli tank fire and Hamas shooting.

While trying to flee, their vehicle flipped over.

"An armed group from Hamas arrived on the scene and finished off the wounded by shooting them in the head and killing them in cold blood," it said.

Hamas denied any responsibility for the clashes and said that one of its fighters shot dead earlier Tuesday was killed with "American bullets", an allusion to a US decision to supply arms to Abbas-controlled forces.

A second Hamas activist, a security officer loyal to Abbas, and three civilians were also killed in clashes around Gaza City, medics and witnesses said.

Israeli soldiers from across the Gaza border also shot dead a Palestinian near Karni, although Defence Minister Amir Peretz told army radio that "we have no intention of getting involved in these clashes."

Palestinian leaders have made repeated promises to quell the violence but security services have proved incapable of imposing law and order and kidnappings, clan clashes and factional feuding are rife.


The death toll on the fourth day of factional bloodshed rose after a member of the Palestinian security services loyal to the Fatah faction was killed.

Hassan Swidan was killed in clashes in the Tal al-Hawa neighbourhood of Gaza City, where fierce fighting between the Islamist Hamas and its secular rival Fatah was underway, security sources said.

Earlier, the home of a top Fatah security official was raided by Hamas gunmen leaving five of his bodyguards dead.

Violence escalated in Gaza despite a Palestinian truce deal.

The attack on the house of Rashid Abu Shbak in a southern neighbourhood of Gaza City came hours after the rival factions announced they had agreed another truce to end the bloodiest violence here for months.

Sixteen people were killed in factional fighting Tuesday, the bloodiest day here since Islamist group Hamas and the Fatah movement headed by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas agreed to forge a unity government in February.

Members of the military wing of Hamas, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, stormed Mr Shbak's house and killed "at least four of his guards," Fatah spokesman Abdel Hakim Awat said, later putting the death toll at five.

He said the gunmen also set fire to part of the house and briefly detained Mr Shbak's wife and daughter before fleeing the scene.

The attack brings to 29 the number of people killed in factional fighting here in the past four days, and came despite a truce which was supposed to have taken effect at midnight Tuesday.

Like two other ceasefires announced since Saturday, the latest truce appeared dead in the water as gunfire and explosions echoed through Gaza overnight.

"Hamas and Fatah met to apply the agreements of recent days putting in place a ceasefire at midnight, as well as a common control centre," the two groups said in a statement late Tuesday.

It said the deal, negotiated with the help of Egyptian mediators, included the lifting of barricades and the release of hostages from both sides.

No sooner had the announcement been made than one of the Egyptian mediators was injured when gunmen opened fire on a convoy of Fatah and Hamas leaders after they failed to stop at a barricade, sources said.

Eight officers in the Abbas-controlled national security service were killed near Karni and more than 20 wounded on Tuesday, a medical source said, in the bloodiest attack in Gaza since the new government took office on March 17.

Eight people died in other clashes elsewhere Tuesday.

Gaza City was deserted except for prowling gangs of masked men.

The fighting, on top of Monday's resignation of interior minister Hani al-Qawasmeh, has dealt a major blow to the national unity government set up by Fatah and Hamas to quell factionalism.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday he was "gravely concerned" over the violence and the United States, which has led a Western boycott of the Hamas ministers in Ismail Haniya's government, called for a halt to the bloodshed.

The national security force accused a Hamas paramilitary force and the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades of trying to stage a coup.

The service said its officers scrambled to reinforce the presidential guard camp near Karni on Tuesday when they came under Israeli tank fire and Hamas shooting.

While trying to flee, their vehicle flipped over.

"An armed group from Hamas arrived on the scene and finished off the wounded by shooting them in the head and killing them in cold blood," it said.

Hamas denied any responsibility for the clashes and said that one of its fighters shot dead earlier Tuesday was killed with "American bullets", an allusion to a US decision to supply arms to Abbas-controlled forces.

A second Hamas activist, a security officer loyal to Abbas, and three civilians were also killed in clashes around Gaza City, medics and witnesses said.

Israeli soldiers from across the Gaza border also shot dead a Palestinian near Karni, although Defence Minister Amir Peretz told army radio that "we have no intention of getting involved in these clashes."

Palestinian leaders have made repeated promises to quell the violence but security services have proved incapable of imposing law and order and kidnappings, clan clashes and factional feuding are rife.