'Hamas plotting coup'


Summary

It says Hamas is propelling the Palestinian territories towards civil war as battles rage on in the Gaza Strip.

Factional fighting claimed yet another life on Tuesday, bringing the death toll since Monday to 16 in Gaza.

The death occurred where gunmen fired on government offices, forcing ministers to interrupt a cabinet meeting.

The latest deaths bring to 22 the number of people killed in the lawless territory since a new bout of internecine bloodshed between Islamist Hamas and secular Fatah erupted on Thursday.

Witnesses said gunmen on the rooftop of an adjacent building fired on government offices Monday as Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas chaired the weekly cabinet meeting, forcing the ministers to flee the premises but without causing casualties.

"The prime minister interrupted the meeting and left the premises with the rest of the ministers," an official at Mr Haniya's office told reporters, accusing fighters from rival Fatah of being behind the attack.

Early Tuesday three mortar shells exploded near the offices of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who is also the Fatah leader, but there were no victims, security sources said.

A few minutes later a mortar shell damaged the home of Mr Haniya in Shati refugee camp near Gaza City, the premier's office said. Again there were no casualties.

Elsewhere, Jamal Abu al-Jadian, a head for northern Gaza of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, loosely affiliated to Fatah, was also killed late Monday, security officials said.

He fought a gun battle with Hamas fighters near his home before taking shelter in a nearby house in Beit Lahiya, witnesses said. Abu al-Jadian's refuge was attacked and his body was riddled with 40 bullets, a medic said.

Several of his family members were wounded, including his brother, who died of his injuries late Monday.

Before dawn, a bullet-riddled body of a Fatah member was found on a Gaza City street, his legs tied, in what a spokesman for Fatah said was an "execution" by Hamas men.

Fragile truce

The gun battles and shootings were the latest breach of the newest truce agreed by the two rivals with Egyptian mediators, who for months have been trying to calm increasingly violent tensions between the two sides.

In a grim warning that the violence could spiral further, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said his movement "has decided to punish all the murderers and criminals" after having given the latest ceasefire a chance.

"Killing them is the only dissuasive response," he said.

More than 160 people have been killed since the first major bout of violence erupted in December.

The factional fighting in one of the world's most densely populated areas, along with renewed Israeli attacks in response to militant rockets, has threatened to sink international efforts to jumpstart the dormant Middle East peace process.

The violence has rattled the unity government that the two parties formed in March with the hope that it would halt the bloodshed and pave the way for an end to a crippling Western aid boycott.

Gaza militants on Monday launched a fresh volley of rockets into Israel, without causing injury, nearly a month after the Jewish state resumed deadly air and ground operations on the territory in response to the fire.

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday vowed to keep hitting Gaza, a day after militants carried out the first cross-border raid into Israeli territory in nearly a year, which left one militant dead.

Israeli strikes have killed 16 civilians and 39 militants since being resumed on May 16 following a sharp increase in rocket fire.


It says Hamas is propelling the Palestinian territories towards civil war as battles rage on in the Gaza Strip.

Factional fighting claimed yet another life on Tuesday, bringing the death toll since Monday to 16 in Gaza.

The death occurred where gunmen fired on government offices, forcing ministers to interrupt a cabinet meeting.

The latest deaths bring to 22 the number of people killed in the lawless territory since a new bout of internecine bloodshed between Islamist Hamas and secular Fatah erupted on Thursday.

Witnesses said gunmen on the rooftop of an adjacent building fired on government offices Monday as Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas chaired the weekly cabinet meeting, forcing the ministers to flee the premises but without causing casualties.

"The prime minister interrupted the meeting and left the premises with the rest of the ministers," an official at Mr Haniya's office told reporters, accusing fighters from rival Fatah of being behind the attack.

Early Tuesday three mortar shells exploded near the offices of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who is also the Fatah leader, but there were no victims, security sources said.

A few minutes later a mortar shell damaged the home of Mr Haniya in Shati refugee camp near Gaza City, the premier's office said. Again there were no casualties.

Elsewhere, Jamal Abu al-Jadian, a head for northern Gaza of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, loosely affiliated to Fatah, was also killed late Monday, security officials said.

He fought a gun battle with Hamas fighters near his home before taking shelter in a nearby house in Beit Lahiya, witnesses said. Abu al-Jadian's refuge was attacked and his body was riddled with 40 bullets, a medic said.

Several of his family members were wounded, including his brother, who died of his injuries late Monday.

Before dawn, a bullet-riddled body of a Fatah member was found on a Gaza City street, his legs tied, in what a spokesman for Fatah said was an "execution" by Hamas men.

Fragile truce

The gun battles and shootings were the latest breach of the newest truce agreed by the two rivals with Egyptian mediators, who for months have been trying to calm increasingly violent tensions between the two sides.

In a grim warning that the violence could spiral further, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said his movement "has decided to punish all the murderers and criminals" after having given the latest ceasefire a chance.

"Killing them is the only dissuasive response," he said.

More than 160 people have been killed since the first major bout of violence erupted in December.

The factional fighting in one of the world's most densely populated areas, along with renewed Israeli attacks in response to militant rockets, has threatened to sink international efforts to jumpstart the dormant Middle East peace process.

The violence has rattled the unity government that the two parties formed in March with the hope that it would halt the bloodshed and pave the way for an end to a crippling Western aid boycott.

Gaza militants on Monday launched a fresh volley of rockets into Israel, without causing injury, nearly a month after the Jewish state resumed deadly air and ground operations on the territory in response to the fire.

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday vowed to keep hitting Gaza, a day after militants carried out the first cross-border raid into Israeli territory in nearly a year, which left one militant dead.

Israeli strikes have killed 16 civilians and 39 militants since being resumed on May 16 following a sharp increase in rocket fire.