Saturday, January 27, 2007
GAZA CITY, Jan. 26 -- Hamas gunmen stormed the home of a fighter from the rival Fatah movement Friday, witnesses said, sparking a deadly gun battle. The clash capped a day of factional violence across the Gaza Strip that killed at least 13 people, including a 2-year-old boy.
The fighting, among the deadliest in nearly two months, marred the anniversary of Hamas's upset victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections. After nightfall, gunfire continued to echo through Gaza City. The heaviest shooting was concentrated around the residence of Mansour Shaleil, a Fatah leader in the Jabalya refugee camp just north of Gaza City.
Hamas gunmen surrounded the house early Friday to detain Shaleil, accusing him of involvement in a shooting in which two Hamas supporters were killed. After an hours-long standoff, dozens of gunmen stormed the house and exchanged fire with Shaleil and a supporter, according to witnesses and ambulance drivers.
The gunmen later withdrew, Palestinian news media reported, leaving Shaleil unharmed. Two men identified as Hamas fighters were killed.
"It looks like they forgot who the enemy is," said Maher Megdad, a Fatah spokesman. "They forgot the Israeli occupation."
Fatah gunmen, meanwhile, kidnapped 19 Hamas fighters and threatened to kill them if Shaleil was harmed, officials on both sides said. After the siege at Shaleil's house ended, Hamas and Fatah officials said they were working with mediators to arrange the hostages' release.
Fighting also spread to the headquarters of the pro-Fatah Preventive Security Service in Gaza City. Four Hamas gunmen were killed in a battle outside a nearby mosque.
In other incidents, fighting erupted outside the residences of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas.