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New Palestinian Clashes in Gaza Leave Two Dead


At least two Palestinian men were killed on Saturday in the Gaza Strip in clashes between the Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah. The deaths bring to 20 the number of Palestinians killed, with more than 60 wounded in inter-Palestinian violence over the past two days. VOA's Jim Teeple has more from our Jerusalem bureau.

The violence is the worst since Palestinian unity government talks collapsed last Sunday. Ever since then, tensions between Fatah and Hamas have been building.

Violence erupted Friday and continued on Saturday, with Hamas and Fatah trading heavy weapons fire at several locations in the Gaza Strip. Some of the heaviest fighting was located in the Jabaliya refugee camp. Among those killed over the past two days have been a two-year old boy and several civilians caught in crossfire.

Both Hamas and Fatah now say unity government talks have been suspended. Salah Ra'fat, who is a key Palestinian negotiator trying to get both sides to reconcile, says he is not optimistic.

Ra'fat says efforts will continue to end the clashes, but at the moment tensions are high.

The clashes erupted on the one-year anniversary of the landslide Hamas victory in last January's Palestinian legislative elections. Some of the worst violence on Friday took place as thousands of Hamas supporters rallied to mark their takeover of the Palestinian Authority. Both Hamas and Fatah are holding numerous hostages from both groups.

The Palestinian government has been crippled by economic sanctions backed by Israel, the United States and the European Union, which stopped financial transfers and development aid to the Palestinian Authority because Hamas refuses to renounce violence and recognize Israel.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Fatah, and Hamas leaders have been trying for months to craft a unity government of technocrats that would allow international aid to be resumed.

However both sides have been unable to agree on who would control key Cabinet posts, or on what any unity Palestinian government's position on Israel would be. Mr. Abbas supports a two-state solution with Israel, with a Palestinian state existing side-by-side with Israel, while Hamas leaders have consistently said they will not recognize the Jewish state.

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