May 14, 2007 / 12:23 AM / 12 years ago

Two killed as Gaza fighting goes on despite truce

GAZA (Reuters) - Two Palestinian gunmen were killed in Gaza on Monday in fighting between the rival Hamas and Fatah groups, despite an Egyptian-mediated truce aimed at ending the deadliest outbreak of factional violence in months.

Palestinians evacuate a man who was shot during clashes in northern Gaza, May 13, 2007. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

Sources in President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah said tensions were so great with Hamas, its power-sharing partner, that their unity government could collapse within days if the bloodshed did not stop.

In the latest violence, dozens of Hamas gunmen exchanged fire with Fatah security officers and bodyguards of Maher Meqdad, a Fatah spokesman, in Gaza City.

Hospital officials said two of the security officers were killed and 10 people were wounded.

Hamas’s armed wing said its men had rushed to the scene after Fatah gunmen opened fire from rooftops at homes belonging to its members. Fatah said Hamas gunmen torched an office belonging to the group at the scene of the clashes.

Hospital officials said a civilian, shot in factional fighting on Sunday, died of his wounds, raising to seven the number of people killed since a new round of clashes erupted over the weekend. At least 40 people have been wounded.

Under the ceasefire brokered by Egyptian mediators and announced by Hamas and Fatah leaders in Gaza on Sunday, both sides were to have pulled gunmen off the streets and swapped about 20 hostages.

Instead, ordinary Palestinians opted to stay indoors, staying off the streets, the domain of masked gunmen on patrol.

Shops were shuttered and many parents kept their children home from school. Taxi drivers took detours to bypass checkpoints set up by rival factions.

“Talk during the night is like butter — it melts at sunrise,” a man on a bicycle, referring to the truce negotiations, shouted as he passed near masked gunmen closing a main street in Gaza City.

Palestinians had hoped the recent deployment of Palestinian police in Gaza under a new security plan would curb growing lawlessness and ease tensions between the long-time rival factions.

Previous police deployments in Gaza have not fully secured the territory, which has sunk further into poverty and political disarray since Israel withdrew troops and settlers in 2005.

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