Rival Palestinian forces clashed in the Gaza Strip on Saturday near the pro-Hamas Islamic University, killing at least two in some of the fiercest infighting since Hamas’ election victory a year ago.
One of the dead was believed to be university student and apparent Hamas member
Aziz al-Hatib, who was caught in the cross fire, witnesses said. Several people were also injured in the clash.
A member of the Hamas-led police force died of his wounds overnight, hospital officials said, bringing the death toll from Friday’s factional fighting to 16, the highest in a single day.
Due to the raging violence it was decided to cancel all matriculation and university exams; streets in the hardest-hit neighborhoods remained deserted, and only bakeries and groceries opened for business. Gaza City's main outdoor market was closed.
Overnight, Hamas mounted a raid on the Gaza headquarters of the so-called Preventive Security service, a force dominated by Fatah members. Hamas pounded the compound with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, injuring at least two Fatah members.
Rocket-propelled grenades were also fired overnight at the home of Rashid Abu Shbak, an Abbas loyalist in charge of internal security in the Palestinian Authority. It was unclear whether Shbak was home at the time but there were no injuries.
The Gaza home of Mahmoud al-Zahar, the Palestinian Foreign Minister and Hamas leader, was also hit by grenades but no one was injured.
Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha vowed the group would avenge those killed in the fighting, including local Hamas leader Zuhair al-Mansi, and accused Fatah of mounting a plot, with US backing, to overthrow the Hamas-led government.
He said unity government talks between President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction and Hamas were on hold.
“As long as the leaders of the coup within Fatah are continuing the killings, there can be no dialogue,” Taha said.
At least 48 Palestinians have been killed in fighting between Hamas and Fatah since Abbas called last month for new presidential and parliamentary elections, Palestinian hospital officials said.
Thursday night Palestinian Interior Minister Sayeed Siam convened representatives from the rival factioins in a bid to end the infighting.
During the meeting it was agreed that Hamas would lift its siege on the home of a senior Fatah operative and the 24 people held captive by the sides would be released.
Most of those kidnapped are being held by the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades in north Gaza.