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Palestinian Factional Violence Escalates

Factional fighting in the Gaza Strip escalated Tuesday, with a rocket attack against the residence of the Palestinian prime minister. Egyptian mediators are meeting with the leaders of Hamas and Fatah, in a bid to end the violence, which has claimed the lives of at least 18 people since Monday. VOA's Jim Teeple has details from our Jerusalem Bureau.

No one was hurt in the attack against Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's house in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, but Hamas leaders are calling the attack an assassination attempt against Mr. Haniyeh, a leader of Hamas. The attack took place after mortars landed in a compound housing offices of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - leader of Fatah - whose primary office and residence is in the West Bank.

The attacks follow a spike in violence, in the past few days, that has spilled over into hospitals and brought ordinary life to a halt in much of the Gaza Strip. Reporter Mohammed Dawass says armed gangs, who appear to be acting on their own, are terrorizing the population.

"I think this is happening because there is no control on the armed people in the streets by their leaders. I do not think anybody can control them, actually," he said. "Nobody can control these armed men in the streets."

The violence, which has included summary public executions, has forced schools to cancel matriculation exams for high school students, something Mohammed Dawass says has never happened before.

"These exams are very important because they decide whether you either go to a university or not; whether you either go to a good college or not," he said. "This is for us the most difficult, the most sensitive exam you take in your life. It is a crossroads in your life."

More than 80 people - mostly militants - have been killed since the latest round of fighting between the Hamas and Fatah factions erupted in May. The two factions have been engaged in a power struggle since Hamas won legislative elections, last year.