Palestinian crisis worsens


Summary

An alleged plot by Hamas militants to assassinate Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has also been revealed.

Video: Factional fighting ramps up

Plot to assassinate Abbas

The plot was claimed hours after Abbas called off a trip to Gaza for talks aimed at reaching a definitive ceasefire between fighters from his Fatah party and Hamas.

Nearly 50 people have died and 100 have been wounded since Sunday.

"Abu Mazen's (Abbas's) visit to Gaza was cancelled after the discovery of a tunnel under Salaheddine Road full of explosives placed by the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades to blow up (his) convoy," said a senior security official, referring to Hamas's military wing.

"The explosives were found on the route that Abu Mazen takes to travel to Gaza," the source added, speaking from the Palestinian political capital of Ramallah in the West Bank.

An official in Mr Abbas's office confirmed the report but Abu Obeida, a spokesman for the Hamas armed wing has denied them completely.

Earlier, a source close to the president has told newswire agency AFP that Mr Abbas did not want to go to Gaza until he was sure Hamas was firmly committed to the latest truce.

Factional fighting flares in Gaza

More than 20 rockets fired from Gaza hit Israel, including one that struck a school and wounded a child, police said. Another person was also wounded in a separate attack.

Both were in the southern town of Sderot, which was struck by eight rockets.

In the southern Gaza town of Rafah fighting also flared again, shattering the fourth truce in as many days.

Three people were killed and another dozen wounded in a shootout during a funeral for those killed on Wednesday.

Air strikes on Gaza

As the Palestinian crisis worsened, Israeli aircraft carried out four air strikes on Gaza, killing five people in retaliation for rockets being fired on Israel from the territory.

The first attack hit the headquarters of a Hamas paramilitary force, killing one person and wounding 30.

Barely two hours later, a Hamas fighter was killed when Israel fired on a car in Gaza City.

A house was targeted in another strike that left another Hamas militant dead while a fourth strike on a car in the Sufa area, one of the crossing points between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip, killed two brothers aged 14 and 16.

Their 17-year-old sister was gravely wounded.

About 15 Israeli tanks also advanced into Gaza near the former settlement of Dugit, a Palestinian security official said.

"Israeli tanks moved about two kilometres into the Gaza Strip, near the former (Jewish) settlement of Dugit, and east of Jabaliya" southeast of Dugit and four kilometres from the border at its closest point, the source said.

An Israeli military spokesman said only that "some tanks entered the northern Gaza Strip in a defensive move, without going far from the barrier" separating the territory from Israel.

Israel's actions threatened to further exacerbate tensions in Gaza, turned into a war zone by five days of battles between rival Fatah and Hamas fighters that has driven the coalition cabinet to the brink of collapse.

But faced with the continuing rocket barrage, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered a "severe response."

Forth ceasefire under threat

Gaza residents were sceptical that the fourth ceasefire in as many days would hold after previous agreements fell apart within hours.

"The situation is more dangerous than under the Israeli occupation. Back then, we knew from where the bullets came, now they can come from anywhere," said Yad Aziz, 35, a Gaza City pharmacist.

The bloodshed also threatens to torpedo efforts to revive Middle East peacemaking after Arab states adopted a revived plan offering normal ties with Israel if it withdraws from land occupied in war in 1967.

Bush and Blair appeal for peace

In Washington, US President George W Bush said he and visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair appealed to all parties in Gaza to work for peace.

"We're concerned about the violence we see in Gaza. We strongly urge the parties to work toward a two-state solution," Mr Bush said.


An alleged plot by Hamas militants to assassinate Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has also been revealed.

Video: Factional fighting ramps up

Plot to assassinate Abbas

The plot was claimed hours after Abbas called off a trip to Gaza for talks aimed at reaching a definitive ceasefire between fighters from his Fatah party and Hamas.

Nearly 50 people have died and 100 have been wounded since Sunday.

"Abu Mazen's (Abbas's) visit to Gaza was cancelled after the discovery of a tunnel under Salaheddine Road full of explosives placed by the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades to blow up (his) convoy," said a senior security official, referring to Hamas's military wing.

"The explosives were found on the route that Abu Mazen takes to travel to Gaza," the source added, speaking from the Palestinian political capital of Ramallah in the West Bank.

An official in Mr Abbas's office confirmed the report but Abu Obeida, a spokesman for the Hamas armed wing has denied them completely.

Earlier, a source close to the president has told newswire agency AFP that Mr Abbas did not want to go to Gaza until he was sure Hamas was firmly committed to the latest truce.

Factional fighting flares in Gaza

More than 20 rockets fired from Gaza hit Israel, including one that struck a school and wounded a child, police said. Another person was also wounded in a separate attack.

Both were in the southern town of Sderot, which was struck by eight rockets.

In the southern Gaza town of Rafah fighting also flared again, shattering the fourth truce in as many days.

Three people were killed and another dozen wounded in a shootout during a funeral for those killed on Wednesday.

Air strikes on Gaza

As the Palestinian crisis worsened, Israeli aircraft carried out four air strikes on Gaza, killing five people in retaliation for rockets being fired on Israel from the territory.

The first attack hit the headquarters of a Hamas paramilitary force, killing one person and wounding 30.

Barely two hours later, a Hamas fighter was killed when Israel fired on a car in Gaza City.

A house was targeted in another strike that left another Hamas militant dead while a fourth strike on a car in the Sufa area, one of the crossing points between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip, killed two brothers aged 14 and 16.

Their 17-year-old sister was gravely wounded.

About 15 Israeli tanks also advanced into Gaza near the former settlement of Dugit, a Palestinian security official said.

"Israeli tanks moved about two kilometres into the Gaza Strip, near the former (Jewish) settlement of Dugit, and east of Jabaliya" southeast of Dugit and four kilometres from the border at its closest point, the source said.

An Israeli military spokesman said only that "some tanks entered the northern Gaza Strip in a defensive move, without going far from the barrier" separating the territory from Israel.

Israel's actions threatened to further exacerbate tensions in Gaza, turned into a war zone by five days of battles between rival Fatah and Hamas fighters that has driven the coalition cabinet to the brink of collapse.

But faced with the continuing rocket barrage, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered a "severe response."

Forth ceasefire under threat

Gaza residents were sceptical that the fourth ceasefire in as many days would hold after previous agreements fell apart within hours.

"The situation is more dangerous than under the Israeli occupation. Back then, we knew from where the bullets came, now they can come from anywhere," said Yad Aziz, 35, a Gaza City pharmacist.

The bloodshed also threatens to torpedo efforts to revive Middle East peacemaking after Arab states adopted a revived plan offering normal ties with Israel if it withdraws from land occupied in war in 1967.

Bush and Blair appeal for peace

In Washington, US President George W Bush said he and visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair appealed to all parties in Gaza to work for peace.

"We're concerned about the violence we see in Gaza. We strongly urge the parties to work toward a two-state solution," Mr Bush said.