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Palestinian in-fighting in Gaza

BBC News Online
15 July 2005

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4685095.stm

Clashes in Gaza between Palestinian Authority security forces and
members of the Hamas militant organisation have killed two
bystanders and injured 20.

The fighting in Gaza City started on Thursday and continued into
Friday morning before appearing to die down.

On Thursday night, Israeli helicopters fired missiles at targets in
Gaza.

The strikes came after a woman in Israel was killed by a rocket
fired from the Gaza Strip on Thursday.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs` Brigades and Hamas said they carried out
Thursday`s rocket attack, in response to the killing of an Islamic
Jihad leader by the Israeli army in the West Bank town of Nablus.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has gone to Gaza to hold talks with
armed groups, in an attempt to put an end to militant attacks.

Tense night

BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston says that the Palestinian
leadership appears to have launched a concerted effort to exert its
authority by force.

There are reports of Palestinian security forces coming under fire
from rocket-propelled grenades and sporadic bursts of gunfire could
be heard on Friday morning.

Private cars blaring their horns raced through the city carrying the
injured. But the situation is now reported to be calmer in the
Zeitoun area of Gaza City, with the Palestinian Authority units
having apparently pulled back.

In some of the worst violence between Palestinians in recent years,
Hamas militants set fire to a police station, a police armoured
personnel carrier and three jeeps.

Thick black smoke from burning tyres rose from the area.

Reports say that the bystanders killed in the fighting were a
teenager and child.

The violence began on Thursday evening. Palestinian Authority
security forces opened fire on a car carrying Hamas members,
injuring several militants. Hamas counter-attacked, targeting the
police station in the area.

The militants in the car had been on a mission to launch missiles at
a nearby Israeli target.

Intense pressure

Mr Abbas has been under intense Israeli and Western pressure to try
to halt such rocket attacks.

Our correspondent says he has always been very reluctant to use
force, but pressure to take decisive action grew after the Israeli
woman was killed by a missile fired from Gaza.

His administration has now said that it is determined to take firm
measures to impose order.

Violence escalated on Tuesday, when an Islamic Jihad militant killed
five Israelis in a suicide bombing in the Israeli coastal resort of
Netanya. Israel responded by carrying out raids in Nablus. This in
turn triggered Thursday`s rocket attacks by al-Aqsa Martyrs`
Brigades and Hamas.

Soon after the rocket attacks, Palestinian police, reportedly acting
on orders to stop further rocket fire, clashed with Hamas members in
northern Gaza.

Israel has occupied Gaza and the West Bank since 1967.

Israeli disengagement from Gaza is due to begin in August.

Approximately 8,500 settlers and the soldiers that protect them are
due to be withdrawn from Gaza. Israel will maintain control over
Gaza`s borders, coastline and airspace.

About 630 settlers will also be removed from four small West Bank
settlements.
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