Factions clash in Gaza despite unity deal

Members of a Hamas-led police force clashed on Thursday with gunmen loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction in a second straight day of factional fighting since the formation of a unity government.A 45-year-old man was killed in a separate shooting incident. It was not immediately clear whether it was factional or clan related.

Palestinians hoped a unity government formed on Saturday between Hamas Islamists and Abbas’s secular Fatah faction would end the fighting. But clashes broke out on Wednesday and spread after a series of abductions.

The most high profile abductee was local Hamas leader Hamdan Assufi, who disappeared on Wednesday. Hamas said it would take “measures” to free the man if Fatah refused to release him. Fatah has not said whether it is holding him.

In an interview with Reuters, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas called the upsurge in violence “unfortunate” and said the new interior minister would soon meet Hamas and Fatah leaders in Gaza.

In Thursday’s violence, the house of a Hamas supporter in the northern Gaza Strip was set ablaze.

Hamas blamed Fatah and dispatched members of its Executive Force to the scene, where the fiercest clash of the day took place. One Fatah activist was injured, local residents and hospital officials said.

In an apparent response, the furniture shop of a Fatah supporter was set on fire.

Relatives of the 45-year-old Gazan who was killed on Thursday also blamed members of Hamas’s Executive Force for the shooting.

In response, members of the dead man’s clan, one of Gaza’s biggest and well-armed, torched two Executive Force vehicles and abducted six Executive Force members.

Islam Shahwan, a spokesman for the Executive Force, denied the force’s involvement in the killing of the man and said the death was a result of a feud between two rival families.

In a separate incident in southern Gaza, an officer in a Fatah-dominated security force was shot by unknown gunmen. Hospital officials said he was in moderate condition.

Earlier, unknown gunmen hijacked a U.N. vehicle. A U.N. convoy was attacked last week.

In the occupied West Bank, Israeli soldiers clashed with members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is linked to Fatah, near the city of Hebron. One of the militants was seriously injured and at least three were captured, Palestinian security sources said.

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