Fierce Gaza fighting sparks fears of civil war
Rival Palestinian leaders traded accusations of coup and assassination attempts on Tuesday as intensified factional violence once again threatened to plunge Gaza into civil war.
Heavy gun battles eruptedin several locations as Hamas's armed wingstepped upattacks on rival Fatah'ssecuritypositions. Several Fatah commanders loyal to President Mahmoud Abbasexpressed frustration with a lack of orders to fight back.
After several hours of intense fighting, some 200 Hamas fighterscaptured the headquarters of Fatah-allied forces in northern Gaza, where about 500 security officers were holed up. A Fatah security official confirmed the building had been lost and said at least 10 people were killed and 30 wounded.
At leastfour smaller security bases were overrun by Hamas in the southern town of Khan Younis.
Earlier Tuesday, a rocket-propelled grenadestruck the home of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in the Shati refugee campin Gaza City, the second attack on his residence in as many days.
Hamas called the attack an assassination attempt by Fatah. There were no injuries.
Abbas, who is in the West Bank, appealed for a new ceasefire andaccused Hamas of "planning to stage a coup against the legitimate institutions" and trying togain controlofGaza by force.
Earlier, four mortar shells hitAbbas's Gaza City compound, but caused no injuries.
In the West Bank, Fatah gunmen kidnapped a deputy cabinet minister from
Hamas and threatened to retaliate to the attacksby killing otherHamas leaders.
'Gaza is burning now'
Later Tuesday, Haniyeh issued his own appeal for an end to the fighting and resumption of negotiations, but there was little indication the factions' forces on the streets were heeding either leader's calls.
The battles once again brought civilian life in Gazato a standstill, as residents locked themselves indoors. University exams were cancelled, despite an earlier ceasefire called to allow students to finish the schoolyear in relative peace.
"Gaza is burning now by the hands of Palestinians," journalist Hamza el-Attar told CBC News Tuesday in a telephone interview. "Bullets are everywhere."
Hopes of a ceasefire to haltclashes that havekilled at least 18 people in the last24 hours appeared crushed asexasperated Egyptian mediators said the bitter rivals turned down an appeal to meet for truce talks.
A Fatah spokesmansaidthemovementwould decide in the next few hours whether to stay in the three-month-old coalition government.
The most recent violence has seen people on both sidesshot at close range in street executions, while others died in shootouts, including one inside a hospital.
The violence stems from a dispute over which side would control security forces as part of the coalition government agreementbetween Hamas and Fatah.
At least 80 people have died in the factional battles since May.
With files from the Assocated Press