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Palestinian President Warns of Civil War


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is warning that factional infighting has put Palestinians on the verge of civil war. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem, the comments were made as the Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah fought a three-hour gunbattle near the main commercial crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

In a somber speech to mark the occasion of the beginning of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Palestinian infighting was as dangerous to Palestinians as being occupied by Israel.

Mr. Abbas told Palestinians they had to stop fighting each other in order to re-establish a cease-fire with Israel. He also said the infighting was putting future talks with Israel in jeopardy.

The Palestinian president is scheduled to meet with Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert later this week. In his speech, Mr. Abbas said he will try to start discussions about a final peace deal with Israel with Mr. Olmert.

Israeli officials say they will try to confine the talks to humanitarian issues, and will not discuss substantive issues because the current unity Palestinian government is dominated by Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel.

Hamas rejects peace talks with Israel and the idea of a two-state solution in the Middle East. Speaking to mark the occasion of the beginning of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when Israeli forces conquered East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, a leading Hamas militant condemned Israel.

Haniyeh says all the obstacles Israel has put in front of Palestinians have made it impossible to build a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 War borders.

In the West Bank city of Hebron, about 200 Israeli protesters staged a demonstration against their country's occupation of the West Bank. The city is a frequent flashpoint for violence. About 500 Jewish settlers live in heavily fortified compounds in the center of Hebron surrounded by about 160,000 Palestinians.

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