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AP Reporter in Gaza Recounts Violent Day

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By IBRAHIM BARZAK
The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 16, 2007; 2:59 PM

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- With gunbattles raging outside my building and my windows blown out by bullets, I sat in the dark hallway outside my apartment with my wife and baby. It's dangerous inside and out.

On Wednesday, I saw several people shot in front of my building, I heard the screams of terrified women and children in a burning building, and I argued with gunmen who tried to take over my home.

I have seen a lot in my years as a journalist in Gaza, but this is the worst it's been.

Much of the fighting is taking place right here in my neighborhood. I went outside a few times to report, just around the house. I saw a building on fire after Hamas gunmen attacked, and I heard the screams of people who could not get out because of the gun battles. I saw Hamas gunmen going in and out of the building, and they were exchanging fire with Fatah forces. And there has been another battle going on all day at a nearby 12-story building.

My building is across from a Palestinian government complex, and both sides are fighting for control of the area.

Gunmen are taking over rooftops. My apartment is on the top floor of a five-story building and some Fatah fighters tried to force their way in Wednesday morning so they could shoot from my windows, overlooking the government compound. I had an argument with them, and they left.

There have been street battles between Hamas and Fatah before, but there are dangerous new elements this time. Now they are arresting or even shooting people for the way they look. If you have a beard, you might be arrested by Fatah security for looking Islamic. If you have a chain around your neck or on your arm, Hamas gunmen might shoot you because you look secular.

As gunfire and explosions echo across the city, people who consider themselves the elite, the politicians, sit with Egyptian mediators at night and then come out announcing a truce. In the morning, fighting resumes and it's clear to us that these people don't control anything.

On Wednesday, three neighbor couples sat with us on the hall floor. It was dark because the electricity was out. We chatted, trying to calm ourselves despite the sounds of heavy gunfire and explosions that had not let up since 2 a.m.

Each of us has a baby. My son, Hikmet, is 9 months old. In the morning he was scared by the noise and he cried and called "mama," which is his first word. Then he fell asleep for three hours. After he woke up, he astonished me by staying calm despite all the shooting.


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