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Leaders of Warring Palestinian Factions Agree to Truce

The leaders of warring Palestinian factions have agreed to a new ceasefire. But as Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, militants on the streets want revenge after another wave of bloody clashes in the Gaza Strip.

Moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah movement and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas have agreed to pull back their forces in Gaza. The two leaders held an emergency meeting after a senior security commander loyal to Abbas and six of his bodyguards were killed Thursday, in one of the bloodiest battles in weeks of internal fighting.

Despite the ceasefire, tension is running high on the streets.

Thousands of Palestinians marched in the funeral procession for the seven Fatah men killed in the clash, calling for revenge against Hamas.

Senior Fatah officials, like Rafik Abu Hosa, say the Hamas political leadership has lost control of the militias that rule the streets.

Speaking on Israel Radio, Abu Hosa said the ceasefire cannot hold if the Hamas leadership is unable to restrain its own forces.

The fighting is part of a deepening power struggle between President Abbas and Hamas over control of the Palestinian Authority. Hamas has been crippled by western sanctions because of its refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel. Mr. Abbas wants to form a more moderate government that would revive peace talks with Israel and be more acceptable to the international community.

The escalating violence has raised fears of a Palestinian civil war, and expectations are low for an end to the fighting. Previous ceasefires have quickly collapsed.