Palestinian gunmen battled inside a hospital and fired on the prime minister's office in factional fighting today that killed 13 people and cast fresh doubt over the future of the unity coalition.
"Everybody is shooting at everybody," a doctor at the Beit Hanoun hospital in the northern Gaza Strip said as a gunbattle raged between the Islamist Hamas and secular Fatah groups, hours after the latest in a series of ceasefires collapsed.
The death toll for the day was one of the highest in the internal strife, in which some 630 Palestinians are estimated to have been killed since Hamas beat Fatah in a 2006 election.
At the hospital, a member of Hamas's Executive Force, two Fatah fighters and another person, who was not immediately identified, were killed and 19 people wounded, medical officials said.
In separate violence in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, Jamal Abu al-Jedian, a co-founder of Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, was killed in a Hamas assault on his house.
His home was attacked after a Hamas fighter was killed.
"Help us. They want to kill us," a woman inside the house pleaded earlier in a telephone call to a radio station.
Jedian's brother was seized by Hamas gunmen and was later found dead, Fatah officials said.
The fighting doomed an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire announced just hours before and cast a shadow over long-term prospects for the coalition that Hamas and Fatah formed three months ago.
The hospital battle, waged inside and outside the facility, was triggered by the fatal shooting of a bodyguard of an intelligence officer affiliated with President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction.
Relatives of the dead man and Fatah fighters then stormed the hospital, which is guarded by the Executive Force, a security contingent loyal to Hamas.
In Gaza City, two Hamas fighters and a Fatah gunman were killed in clashes along with a 72-year-old woman and a 15-year-old girl whose home was hit in the crossfire, hospital official said.
Earlier today, gunmen shot at the office of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. No one was hurt in the attack, which an aide to Haniyeh blamed on Fatah.
But the cabinet session that had been under way in the building was suspended because of the gunfire from a nearby rooftop. Fatah denied its fighters were involved. Only one Fatah minister attended the meeting.
Gunmen also stormed a mosque in Gaza City, damaging a library, Hamas said. The incident touched off a gunbattle outside the house of worship. Fatah denied any involvement.
A key motive behind the latest truce was to permit 70,000 high school students in Gaza and the occupied West Bank to take their matriculation exams peacefully.
Most pupils took circuitous routes to their schools to avoid the gunmen, witnesses said.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said ahead of a visit to Washington next week and possible talks with Middle East power brokers in Egypt later in the month that he was "prepared to renew talks ... at any time" with the US-backed Abbas.
Abbas cancelled talks with Olmert last week in a dispute over Israel's withholding of Palestinian tax revenues.
A senior aide to Abbas said the president stood ready to meet Olmert any time - once Israel released the money.
Bagelblogger: No world condemnation, no cries of innocents being killed. Just another day in GAZA, with the peace loving Palestinian Hamas and Fatah parties trying to out do each other in killing. 630 Palestinians dead in the internal strife... and these are the people Israel has to negotiate a peace with.
Reuters: Everybody is shooting at everybody [SMH]
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