Wed Jan 3, 2007 12:43 PM ET
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - Clashes erupted between forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas government in Gaza on Wednesday, killing five people in the worst bout of fighting since the rivals agreed a fragile truce two weeks ago.
At least nine people were wounded in separate incidents across the Gaza Strip, hospital officials said.
Abbas's Fatah faction and Hamas declared the ceasefire in the wake of violence that escalated after Abbas called for early elections to break a political deadlock with the Islamists.
Hamas condemned Abbas's move as a coup to oust it less than a year after it surprised Fatah to win a parliamentary ballot.
The fresh violence is likely to revive fears among Palestinians that Gaza could slip into civil war.
Among the dead were three security officials loyal to Abbas who were killed in the southern town of Khan Younis, hospital officials said.
Abbas's Preventive Security force said the three died when a Hamas police unit ambushed two of its vehicles. Hamas said the security force fired first.
In the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza, one woman was killed after getting caught in the crossfire of a fierce clash between rival forces. Nine others were wounded, mostly combatants, hospital officials said.
That clash came after unknown gunmen killed a Fatah member who was on a rooftop in the town of Beit Lahiya and a car carrying Hamas security officers was ambushed. Two policemen were wounded in the ambush, the Hamas police force said.
Gunmen also abducted four Fatah members from the streets, witnesses said. Fatah blamed Hamas, which declined to comment.
While Abbas has called for fresh parliamentary and presidential elections, he has left the door open to talks with Hamas on forging a unity government that Palestinians hope will lead to the lifting of Western sanctions imposed on the Hamas administration.
On top of the internal chaos, general law and order has deteriorated in Gaza in recent months.
Palestinian colleagues of a Peruvian photographer abducted by gunmen this week demanded his release on Wednesday, saying the 50-year-old's life was in danger because he needed medicine for heart disease.
Sakher Abu El-Awn, Gaza office manager of the French news agency Agence France-Presse, said Jaime Razuri, who was seized outside the AFP Gaza City office on Monday, was taking several types of medication, including some for the heart problems.
"We believe his life is at serious risk and we urge his captors to release him immediately," Abu El-Awn told Reuters.
Razuri's kidnapping is the latest in a spate of abductions of foreign journalists and aid workers in Gaza in the past year. All have been freed unharmed.
No one has claimed responsibility for Razuri's abduction.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2007/01/five-killed-in-gaza-infighting.html. Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.