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Hamas, Fatah Clash in Gaza; Israel Strikes by Air
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Hamas, Fatah Clash in Gaza; Israel Strikes by Air

Middle East

Hamas, Fatah Clash in Gaza; Israel Strikes by Air
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Andrea Seabrook.

In Gaza today, a fourth day of intense fighting between the military wing of Hamas and forces loyal to its rival, Fatah. Then, yet another cease-fire. This latest truce declaration came after a bloody day that left at least 15 Palestinians dead and dozens of others wounded. Five more Palestinians were killed by Israeli air strikes.

NPR's Linda Gradstein reports from Jerusalem.

LINDA GRADSTEIN: The cease-fire announcement came after one of the heaviest days of fighting between rival Palestinian factions this year. In one incident, Hamas gunmen killed six bodyguards of a senior Fatah official and torched his house. In another incident, Hamas fighters killed five of their own when they attacked a Fatah convoy carrying Hamas prisoners. Dozens of civilians have been wounded.

Palestinian residents of Gaza, like this man who asked not to be identified, say daily life has become intolerable.

Unidentified Man: There is no differentiation between armed men and an innocent baby walking in the streets. The masked men are shooting at everything moving in the streets, even cats and dogs.

GRADSTEIN: The signing has imperiled the unity government between Fatah and Hamas formed in February after a similar wave of factional violence earlier in the year. Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti speaking before today's truce was announced, said the fighting is a challenge to the future of Palestinian democracy.

Mr. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI (Palestinian Information Minister): They keep making agreements and then they violate it within minutes. We told both sides since they are in the government that they - we should talk to the president; the president control their people. When we formed the national unity government, it was formed specifically to prevent internal fighting and to open the road of protecting democracy.

GRADSTEIN: In addition to the factional violence, at least five Hamas members were killed today in two Israeli air strikes in Gaza. Israeli officials said they hit a Hamas operations headquarters in the southern Gaza town of Rafah. That came after Hamas gunmen fired more than two dozen Kasam rockets from Gaza into Southern Israel. At least seven Israelis were wounded too seriously in the town of Sderot. Sderot began emptying out today. As more than a thousand Israelis fled the town to hotels and safe areas paid for by Russian-Israeli billionaire Arcadi Gaydamak.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today said the time of restraint has ended, and Israel will respond harshly to the rocket attacks. At the same time, Israeli officials say they believe Hamas is trying to divert attention from the internal fighting by dragging Israel into the conflict. Government spokeswoman Miri Eisin says Israel won't let that happen.

Ms. MIRI EISIN (Spokeswoman, Israeli Government): We will respond but we won't be dragged by Hamas, by a terrorist organization. We are not going to do this on their terms and at their time.

GRADSTEIN: Israeli military officials say it's almost impossible to stop the rocket fire without a large-scale ground incursion into Gaza, which would involve many casualties.

Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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