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Gaza factional fighting kills 6

Hamas ambushes a convoy it claims was carrying arms for rival Fatah, sparking clashes.

February 02, 2007|Ken Ellingwood | Times Staff Writer

JERUSALEM — Renewed violence between rival Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip left at least six people dead Thursday, despite a 3-day-old cease-fire agreement.

Clashes broke out around the coastal strip after gunmen from the ruling Hamas movement ambushed a convoy of trucks they said were carrying weapons from Egypt destined for the group's main rival, Fatah. Four members of the Palestinian security forces and two bystanders died in the fighting and more than 40 people were injured.

Egyptian officials in Gaza and a spokesman for the Presidential Guard of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denied that the trucks were carrying arms. They said the cargo was supplies for a Presidential Guard compound in Gaza.

The two sides called the truce after clashes that killed about 30 people last week. Sporadic violence kicked up in December after Abbas called for new elections to break a political deadlock.

Hamas, which unseated Abbas' Fatah faction in parliamentary balloting a year ago, sees early elections as part of a coup attempt and accuses the United States of backing Fatah in the escalating violence.

The Bush administration plans to provide $86 million in what it describes as nonlethal aid to Abbas' security forces. Egypt has shipped weapons to bolster his forces in Gaza, with what Israeli officials say is their permission.

Hamas and Fatah have negotiated for months over terms of a coalition government aimed at breaking an international aid embargo against Hamas. But the talks repeatedly have faltered, mainly over the distribution of Cabinet portfolios and Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel.

Western nations cut assistance because they consider Hamas a terrorist group and set three conditions for aid renewal: The Palestinian government must recognize Israel, renounce violence and agree to abide by past agreements between the Jewish state and the Palestinians.

Late Thursday, Fatah forces raided the Islamic University, a Hamas stronghold in Gaza City, and said they arrested seven Iranians, the Associated Press reported. An eighth person committed suicide.

Hamas said there were no non-Palestinians at the university. Israel has accused Iran of providing military aid and advice to Hamas.

Special correspondent Rushdi abu Alouf in Gaza City contributed to this report.

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