REBECCA ROBERTS, host:
Deadly internal Palestinian fighting restarted this weekend in the Gaza Strip. Since Friday, more than 20 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in battles between rival factions Fatah and Hamas. Talks on forming a Palestinian unity government aimed at easing Western sanctions and a month-long internal political battle have again collapsed amid the renewed bloodshed.
NPR's Eric Westervelt reports.
ERIC WESTERVELT: The latest internal fighting erupted late Thursday and early Friday after a Hamas member was killed in a car bombing in the Jabaliya refugee camp on the edge of Gaza City. Sporadic street battles, ambushes, kidnappings and sniper fire continued throughout the weekend, with more explosions and gunfire heard in Gaza this morning. By today, at least 25 Palestinians were dead and more than 75 wounded, according to Gaza hospital officials. Several civilians are among the dead, including a two-year-old boy who was traveling in a car sprayed by gunfire from Fatah militants in southern Gaza.
The latest violence destroyed yet another cease-fire between the warring factions and damaged the already long shot attempts to form a unity government. Analysts and others give the on again/off again talks on forming a Palestinian coalition government little chance of succeeding. The political and ideological gaps between the Islamists of Hamas and the once dominant and more secular Fatah Movement remain as wide as ever.
Hamas' election victory one year ago led to crippling international economic sanctions and ignited a vicious power struggle between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas is listed as a terrorist group by Israel and the West. Hamas leader and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh this weekend lashed out at Fatah and what he called dirty American funding and arms.
The Bush administration is seeking some $86 million to help strengthen security forces led by Fatah leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas this weekend said he'll move forward with plans to hold early elections in an effort to end the deadlock if no agreement is reached with Hamas within three weeks. Hamas leaders have denounced any early vote as illegal and an attempted coup.
Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Jerusalem.
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