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Gaza fight thrusts into two hospitals

Published June 12, 2007


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Rival gunmen exchanged fire at two Gaza hospitals on Monday and Cabinet ministers fled their weekly meeting after the government headquarters was caught in the crossfire of infighting that killed 17 Palestinians.

The battles came a day after two militants from the rival Hamas and Fatah factions were dragged onto high-rise rooftops and thrown to their death in a power struggle.

After sundown Monday, gunmen, apparently from Hamas, laid siege to the house of Jamal Abu al-Jediyan, the senior Fatah official in northern Gaza. They then dragged him outside and shot him to death, security officials said.

Monday's deaths brought to more than 80 the number of Palestinians killed since the latest round of infighting erupted in May.

The violence has overshadowed attempts to revive Israeli-Palestinian contacts.

Appeals for calm by the leaders of the two rival camps, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, went unheeded. Repeated attempts to secure a cease-fire also have failed.

About 90 minutes into the weekly Cabinet meeting on Monday, shots hit the Gaza City building where the ministers had gathered.

Mohammed Madhoun, an aide to Haniyeh, said the building was apparently caught in the crossfire between rival Fatah and Hamas forces perched on nearby rooftops.

The bloodiest clashes of the day took place in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. Fatah and Hamas gunmen exchanged fire near Beit Hanoun Hospital, killing a Hamas supporter. The battle then moved to the hospital, where three men from a Fatah-allied clan were shot dead.

At Gaza's largest hospital, Shifa, combatants fired mortars, grenades and assault rifles.

Hamas and Fatah have been locked in a violent power struggle since Hamas defeated Fatah in January 2006 legislative elections, ending four decades of Fatah rule. Hamas brought Fatah into its government in March in an effort to quell the internal strife, but the fighting reignited in mid May over an unresolved dispute over who controls the powerful security forces.

[Last modified June 12, 2007, 02:02:11]

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