Seven Palestinians are reported killed and more than a dozen wounded in clashes between Palestinian security forces and Hamas militants in Gaza City. The violence erupted when Palestinian police tried to prevent further militant attacks against Israel.
It was a night of fighting that included a deadly rocket attack on Israel, Israeli air strikes against Palestinian militant targets and fighting between Palestinian security forces and militants
Gun battles erupted Thursday night when Palestinian police moved in on militants who had earlier fired rockets into southern Israel, killing an Israeli woman.
The clashes then died. Militants fired more rockets and mortars at Israeli targets. Israel responded with a helicopter missile strike into Gaza.
Fighting again flared up between Palestinian police and Hamas militants and continued Friday morning in Gaza City's crowded Zaitun neighborhood.
Palestinian security forces have been placed on high alert throughout Gaza.
Chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat told VOA the situation in Gaza is very serious and a result of Hamas challenging the authority of the elected Palestinian leadership.
"Hamas is acting like a multiple authority and we hold them responsible for what's happening in Gaza," he said, "and we will do everything possible to maintain the rule of law and to maintain the oneness of our [Palestinian] Authority."
Mr. Erekat rejected the notion that the Palestinian Authority was cracking down on the militants following increasing international pressure after Tuesday evening's suicide bombing in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya, which killed five Israelis.
This week's violence has severely shaken an already fragile truce between Israel and the Palestinians that had been in place since February. Both sides want to see calm before Israel's planned withdrawal from Gaza, due to begin in one month.
But, continuing attacks by militant groups are seen as a serious challenge to Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. The fighting in Gaza is also the most serious among Palestinians in recent years.