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Palestinian Factions Battle in Gaza


Palestinian officials in the Gaza Strip say a Hamas gunman has died in a gun fight between members of the militant group and Palestinian Authority security forces.

Shooting broke out Wednesday in the town of Khan Younis, where the dead man and other Hamas members ambushed Rifat Kulab, the local security chief.

Officials say the senior officer was shot up to seven times in the legs, and is recovering from his wounds at a hospital.

In the West Bank, scores of Palestinian government workers stormed the parliament building in Ramallah today, demanding long-overdue wages.

Palestinian civil servants have received no salary payments since March, when Hamas took over the Palestinian government. International donors have suspended financial aid to the Palestinian Authority because of Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence.

Severe economic hardship throughout the West Bank and Gaza has frayed relations between the Hamas government and the main faction of the Fatah organization, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Tension escalated after the president's recent call for a referendum on Palestinian statehood, worded so that it would implicitly recognize the state of Israel. Hamas, which has the destruction of Israel as one of its goals, strongly opposes such a vote.

The International Crisis Group, a private research organization, issued a report Tuesday saying the Palestinians are "inching toward civil war."

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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