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Hamas, Fatah Gunmen Clash in West Bank, Gaza


Rival Palestinian factions have clashed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the fifth straight day. At least 32 people were injured. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Hamas supporters rallied in Gaza, as Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Gunmen from the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas and the rival Fatah faction fought street battles in the West Bank town of Ramallah and Gaza City. Fighting erupted after Hamas accused Fatah of trying to assassinate Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. He came under fire as he crossed the border from Egypt into Gaza on Thursday.

One of Mr. Haniyeh's bodyguards was killed and his son wounded.

Trouble began at the border after Israel blocked Mr. Haniyeh from returning to Gaza with suitcases Western officials say were packed with $35 million he collected on a tour of Muslim countries, including Iran, in defiance of international sanctions, imposed on Hamas because of its refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel.

Egypt, which fears growing Iranian influence in the region, cooperated with Israel in preventing Mr. Haniyeh from bringing the money across its border with Gaza. That prompted Hamas militants to seize the border terminal, sparking gun battles with security guards from Fatah.

In the end, the money was handed over to the Arab League in Cairo, which will try to find a way to get it to the Palestinian people, not Hamas.

Speaking at a rally of 70,000 Hamas supporters in Gaza, Prime Minister Haniyeh was defiant.

He said, "We joined this movement to become martyrs, not government ministers."

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