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Palestinian Factions Clash in Gaza


There were more clashes Tuesday between Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip. VOA's Jim Teeple reports at least five Hamas militants were wounded in the fighting, which came just three days after Palestinian factions agreed to a truce.

Violence broke out after five Hamas militants were seized by Fatah militants loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The five were later released but attacked as they left the area where they had been detained.

The clashes came after the two factions agreed to a truce several days ago. Tension have risen dramatically since Saturday, when President Abbas said a Hamas force of about 6,000 gunmen known as the Executive Force was illegal and must be immediately integrated into Palestinian security forces under his direct control. Hamas officials have rejected the call saying efforts to disband the force would be resisted.

Fatah militants in the West Bank have also stepped attacks against Hamas officials and sympathizers in the West Bank, where Hamas is considerably weaker than in the Gaza Strip. Atta Abu Remelleh, a leading Fatah militia leader near the West Bank city of Jenin says Fatah will not allow the situation in the West Bank to deteriorate as it has in Gaza.

Remelleh says the situation in Gaza is beginning to resemble Iraq and Fatah will not allow that to happen in the West Bank.

Fatah and Hamas have been feuding ever since Hamas won legislative elections one year ago, taking control of the Palestinian Authority. Talks between the two factions to create a coalition government collapsed in December, and President Abbas, said he would call new legislative and presidential elections - to decide once and for all who governs the Palestinian territories - Fatah or Hamas. Hamas called the move illegal, and effectively a coup.

Violence in the Gaza Strip spiked last week when Hamas militants killed a senior Fatah security official and seven of his bodyguards in a rocket attack on the officials' home in Gaza. Shortly before he was killed the official phoned a Palestinian television station on his cell phone - which broadcast his pleas for help to a large audience - raising tensions to a new level.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian militant group that is one of three organizations claiming to hold an Israeli soldier captured on the Gaza border last June said Tuesday the soldier, Gilad Shalit, was in good health and is being treated well. The group known as the Palestinian Resistance Committees says however that Shalit will not be released unless Israel agrees to release more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said he is prepared to release some Palestinians in exchange for Shalit. However Israeli officials said recently there had been no significant progress in Egyptian-brokered negotiations aimed at prisoner swap.

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