VIDEO - The Palestinian Health Ministry declared a state of emergency in the Palestinian Authority in wake of violent clashes between the Hamas and Fatah movements Sunday that left four people dead.
The Ministry and the Red Crescent emergency service have ordered their employees to equip themselves with bulletproof vests, for fear the infighting escalates even further.
On Sunday, Palestinian sources in the town of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip reported that a 20-year-old pregnant Palestinian woman, the wife of a Hamas member, was shot dead during a deadly fire exchange between Hamas and Fatah gunmen.
The activist's brother was also killed in the fighting and another woman was injured, the sources said.
Chaos in Gaza (Video: Reuters)
Palestinian sources in the Strip later reported that two Fatah members were shot to death after unidentified men opened fire toward a mourners' tent in the Shati refugee camp.
The mourners' tent was set up in the home of Khader Afana, an officer of the Preventative Security forces who was killed several days ago, also by unidentified gunmen.
According to reports from other news agencies, five people were killed overall during Sunday's deadly clashes.
Earlier on Sunday, during another armed clash between the two factions, three gunmen were injured, one of them critically.
Even before the deadly clashes, Fatah faction Chairman Azzam al-Ahmad announced that PA Chairman Abbas is due to issue a presidential decree on Tuesday, ordering the holding of a referendum in the territories. On the streets, activists on both sides await to see how this decision will influence the tension and violence that currently prevail.
In a bid to put a stop to the clashes, officials on both sides have been negotiating in recent hours the possibility of holding a meeting between PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Abbas' special aide Ravhi Fatuh. However, sources in the PA estimated that even if held, such a meeting would fail to resolve the cul-de-sac between the fighting groups.
Tension between the factions has been increasing, and Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades has announced its intention to mobilize 1,300 of its fighters across Gaza.
In an announcement, the Brigades said that the special force would fight the penetrations of IDF infantry units into Gaza, aid Palestinian security forces and combat violence in Gaza.
However, in the PA few doubt that the new force will be Fatah's answer to the force Hamas has mobilized
in recent weeks in Gaza.
In recent days, Hamas' force has been involved in clashes and exchanges of fire with Fatah members and Palestinian security forces.
Signal to Hamas
In Gaza, sources speculated that Fatah is seeking to signal to Hamas that it has no intention of abandoning control of the Palestinian street, and that it is not afraid of an internal confrontation, though Fatah would do everything to prevent such a clash.
The message came after 2,500 armed al-Aqsa Brigades members assembled in the Jenin area. The gunmen called themselves "the intervention force," working alongside Palestinian police, although this is the title also used by Hamas' force.
After the Jenin mobilization, which was condemned by the Hamas government, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades members are preparing to spread forces out in Tul Karm and the remainder of the cities of the West Bank. Reports of the movements of the forces serve only to increase the tension ahead of Abbas' ultimatum on a national referendum, which runs out on Monday night.
Hamas has warned against what it said would be severe consequences and tensions resulting from a referendum.
Overdue salaries paid at last
Meanwhile, a ray of hope was offered to some of the government workers in the PA, who received their three months overdue salaries on Sunday. The overjoyed employees withdrew money from their accounts and waved the bills for all to see.
At this point, the government had only paid the 40,000 employees earning the lowest salaries, which stand at NIS 1500 (roughly USD 332). On Monday the rest of the workers are set to be paid, after Palestinian banks have agreed to forward advance payments to their accounts.