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Palestinians Factions Battle in Gaza


Three Palestinian gunmen have been killed in heavy fighting between Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip. More than a dozen people were also wounded in the violence.

Observers say it is the worst violence between the Hamas and Fatah Palestinian factions since Hamas took control of the Palestinian government.

Reporter Mohammed Dawas in Gaza City says the fighting has eased, but there are fears that it could start again at any time.

"That is what people are afraid of," he said. "People are calling on it (violence) not to increase. They want it to be contained, because, if it spreads, it is going to be impossible to control."

The fighting began near the Gaza town of Khan Younis, after Hamas and Fatah militants began kidnapping each other. Violence soon spiraled out of control.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Hamas militant, told a Gaza news conference he is taking steps to stop the violence.

Mr. Haniyeh says he has ordered the Palestinian Interior Ministry to take all necessary steps to insure the violence does not spread to other areas of Gaza.

The clashes followed failed talks on Saturday and Sunday between Prime Minister Haniyeh of Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah. The two men were trying to resolve who will control Palestinian security forces, long under the domination of Fatah.

The tensions have been compounded by a financial crisis within the Palestinian Authority. Civil servants have not been paid in nearly two months. Foreign aid to the Palestinians has been suspended, because Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and disarm.