6 Palestinians die as factions clash

February 02, 2007|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

JERUSALEM -- Renewed violence between rival Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip left at least six people dead yesterday, despite a three-day-old cease-fire agreement.

Clashes broke out around the coastal strip after gunmen from the ruling Hamas movement ambushed a convoy of trucks they said were carrying arms from Egypt destined for its main rival, Fatah.

Four members of Palestinian security forces and two bystanders died in the fighting and more than 40 people were injured.

Egyptian officials in Gaza and a spokesman for the presidential guard of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who belongs to Fatah, denied the trucks were carrying arms. They said the cargo was supplies for a presidential guard compound in Gaza.

The two sides called the truce after clashes killed about 30 people last week. On-and-off violence broke out in December after Abbas called for new elections to break a political deadlock.

Hamas, which unseated Fatah in parliamentary elections a year ago, sees early elections as part of a coup attempt and accuses the United States of backing Fatah in the escalating violence.

The Bush administration plans to provide $86 million in what it describes as non-lethal aid to Abbas' security forces. Egypt has shipped weapons to bolster his forces in Gaza, with what Israeli officials say is their permission.

Hamas and Fatah have negotiated for months over terms of a coalition government aimed at breaking an international aid embargo against Hamas. But the talks have repeatedly faltered, mainly over the distribution of Cabinet portfolios and Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel.

Western nations cut aid because they consider Hamas a terrorist group.

They set three conditions for a renewal: The Palestinian government must recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and agree to abide by past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

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