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Rival Palestinian Factions Fight Gun Battles in Gaza

Rival Palestinian factions have clashed in the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas. At least four people, including two Hamas policemen, have been killed and dozens wounded. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Machine gun and mortar fire rang out in heavily-populated Gaza City as Hamas security forces stepped up the pressure on their Palestinian opponents. They attacked a stronghold of a clan aligned with the rival Fatah faction, and gunmen there returned fire. Hamas said it believed suspects in a bombing that killed five Hamas gunmen and a girl a week ago were hiding in the neighborhood.

The raid is part of an intensifying Hamas crackdown on Fatah. Since the bombing, more than 200 Fatah activists have been arrested.

Fatah official Abdullah Abdullah says the Hamas crackdown
"[...] is another proof that these people are not interested in the welfare, well-being of the Palestinians, not on their daily needs and or even in their national, political program."

The infighting is some of the most serious since Hamas routed Fatah forces in the Gaza civil war a year ago. Fatah leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas now heads a more moderate government in the West Bank.

In retaliation for the Gaza arrests, Fatah forces have rounded up dozens of Hamas activists in the West Bank. Fatah militants also abducted Hamas official Mohammed Ghazal in the West Bank town of Nablus.

In a telephone interview on Al-Jazeera television, Ghazal said his captors will not release him until Hamas halts it crackdown on Fatah in Gaza.