Palestinians gather in front of a burnt building in Gaza. Palestinian gunbattles have rocked Gaza, killing 17 people in 24 hours as mortar shells slammed into the home of premier Ismail Haniya and the seafront compound of president Mahmud Abbas.(AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Gaza fighting kills 17 in 24 hoursÂ
Amid the apparent no-holds barred confrontation, one person was killed and 10 wounded in a shooting at a hospital, while the Palestinian media are also being targeted.
No casualties were reported in either the attack on Haniya’s modest home in Shati refugee camp or the sprawling Gaza City presidential compound of Abbas. Neither leader was present when the impacts were reported.
Security officials said three mortar shells exploded inside Abbas’s compound while a fourth struck the home of Haniya, a senior member of Hamas, whose loyalists have been locked in deadly battles with Abbas’s Fatah for six days.
Defying the latest ceasefire, Gaza plunged into renewed violence, with rival gunmen stepping up the stakes by opening fire on government offices and at a hospital in clashes that have killed 17 people since Monday.
The violence poses a serious threat to a national unity government that has grouped Fatah and Hamas around the same cabinet table since March with the express aim of halting the bloodshed and ending cripping Western boycotts.
Hamas militant Omar Nabhan Rantissi, a nephew of Hamas leader Abdelaziz Rantissi who was assassinated by Israel in 2004, was the latest to die, killed by gunmen in the southern town of Khan Yunis on Tuesday, medical sources said.
Overnight, assailants fired more than 40 mortar shells against the Gaza City headquarters of the preventive security service loyal to Fatah, according to security sources who gave no details about possible casualties.
Rival activists went on an arsonist rampage, torching around a dozen homes of Fatah and Hamas members throughout the territory, the same sources said.
Hamas activists also kidnapped two Palestine TV technicians and blew up the building where they were abducted in Gaza City, a television official said.
A shell was fired at the main office of the official station, which Hamas accuses of being pro-Fatah, shattering windows at its imposing entrance.
Twenty-three Palestinians have now been killed in the lawless and radicalised territory awash with weapons since the latest bout of internecine bloodshed erupted last Thursday following weeks of calm.
On Monday, gunmen hunkered down on an adjacent rooftop fired on government offices as Haniya chaired the weekly cabinet meeting, forcing ministers to flee to safety in an attack that an official at Haniya’s office blamed on Fatah.
The office of sports and youth minister Bassem Naim, another member of Hamas, also came under fire on Monday, and one person was killed and 10 wounded in a shooting at a hospital in the northern town of Beit Hanun
Among the dead were two women and a child caught in the crossfire in neighbouring Beit Lahya on Monday, while a 65-year-old man and two of his sons died in gunbattles in Beit Hanun.
Jamal Abu al-Jadian, a local chief of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which is loosely affiliated to Fatah, in northern Gaza was also killed in a gunbattle with Hamas fighters, who riddled his body with 40 bullets.
In a grim warning, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum announced his movement “has decided to punish all the murderers and criminals”, saying that “killing them is the only dissuasive response”.
Appeals from Abbas from his West Bank political powerbase of Ramallah to end the bloodshed have fallen on deaf ears.
The factional fighting, coupled to renewed Israeli air strikes against the Gaza Strip and a surge in Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, casts a deep shadow over international efforts to jumpstart the dormant peace process.
A Palestinian rocket attack fired from Gaza lightly wounded three people in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Tuesday, the army said.
More than 160 Gazans have been killed since the first major bout of factional violence flared in December. Clashes resumed in May, largely over differences in implementing a government plan to end the anarchy in Gaza.
* As always: We are rooting for both sides in this uncivil war Â