Abbas Said to Favor New Election to Break Impasse

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A tenuous ceasefire in the Gaza Strip between Palestinians and Israel is holding for the most part now. But Gaza is wracked by inter-Palestinian violence and political paralysis, as tensions between rival Palestinian factions are on the rise.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas hints that he will soon take action to break the long impasse between his Fatah movement and the militant group Hamas, who gained control of the government after last January's elections.

Many Palestinians hoped that a temporary halt in violence with Israel might spur rivals Fatah and Hamas to seize the opportunity to ease their bitter power struggle.

The opposite has happened. Earlier this week three children — sons of a Fatah leader — were murdered on their way to school. And Wednesday, a Hamas judge was gunned down in broad daylight outside a courthouse.

In the increasingly murky, violent and lawless culture of Gaza, it's not clear who carried out the killings. No one has claimed responsibility. A few token arrests of suspects have been made. But the killings are widely seen as another grim episode in the Fatah-Hamas power struggle.

For many, the targeted killing of the three boys, ages 3, 6 and 8, has marked a new low in inter-Palestinian turmoil.

The bullet-riddled car in which they were riding when gunmen opened fire is now a makeshift shrine at a traffic circle just outside President Abbas' Gaza office.

A blood-stained child's backpack and bullet-scarred schoolbooks are propped on the car's roof. Every night since the attack, hundreds of Gazans, many of them women, have poured into the square, furious over the children's killing.

To try to end crippling international sanctions linked to Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence, President Abbas tried for months to form a unity government with Hamas and push the group toward meeting conditions set by Israel and the West.

With unity talks now in tatters, Abbas aides say he may soon move to end the deadlock with call for new elections — something which Hamas calls illegal.



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