A resurgence in factional violence in Gaza killed three Palestinians today, sparked a daylight gun battle and led to fears that an already fragile truce between Hamas and Fatah would completely collapse.
The violence in the northern Gaza Strip began when a 25-year-old militant from President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party was shot and killed in the town of Beit Lahiya, setting off a new round of gunbattles that sent rival gunmen pouring into the streets in force.
Fatah officials wouldn’t comment publicly on the shooting, but privately blamed Hamas, the Islamic group that controls the Palestinian parliament and cabinet.
A woman was shot in the head and seriously wounded in the crossfire, and 12 other people were moderately hurt, hospital and security officials said.
Later in the afternoon, a group of gunmen ambushed Fatah-allied Palestinian security officers in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, blasting their police car with bullets and a rocket-propelled grenade and killing two of the officers, according to witnesses.
Fatah officials blamed Hamas militiamen for that attack.
Before the ambush, the security officers stormed a house where they believed a colleague who had been kidnapped earlier in the day was being held, security officials said in a statement. Militants attacked the officers and one was injured, the statement said.
When two of his colleagues driving a police car tried to bring him to the hospital, they were attacked near the hospital’s entrance, the statement said.
The renewed surge of violence came two days after Fatah and Hamas militants carried out a series of kidnappings and engaged in gun battles in violation of a mid-December truce between the two groups, which are vying for control of the Palestinian government.
In December, violent clashes between them killed 17 Palestinians before a ceasefire brought the violence under control.