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Top Fatah leader among 11 dead in new clashes

Jamal Abu el-Jidian is the most senior leader on either side to be killed in the latest round of the internecine clashes.

world Updated: Jun 12, 2007 09:35 IST

A senior Fatah leader was among 11 people killed in heavy fighting between Hamas and Fatah gunmen in the Gaza Strip as yet another truce between the two sides was broken.

Jamal Abu el-Jidian, secretary general of Fatah in the northern Gaza Strip, is the most senior leader on either side to be killed in the latest round of the internecine clashes, which have plagued the Gaza Strip for months.

Fatah spokesman Maher Miqdad said dozens of Hamas militants surrounded the house of Abu el-Jidian on Monday afternoon and fired dozens of missiles in an attack that "was planned in advance."

The Fatah leader's body was then riddled with bullets.

His death brings to at least 16 the number of people killed in the violence since Thursday and came hours after Hamas and Fatah reached a second truce in as many days, seeking to end several days of resurfacing factional clashes that have smashed a three-week lull in fighting.

Hamas militants also blew up the home of a Palestinian security officer, Hassan Irbayea, in western Gaza City Monday, killing his daughter and mother, eyewitnesses and security sources reported.

Irbayea wasn't at home when his house was bombarded, but his family was. Medics at Shiffa Hospital said that a 75-year-old woman and a 15-year-old girl were killed and a third woman critically wounded as a missile hit the house.

Another four of those killed Monday died in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun and the other two were killed in Gaza City, witnesses and medical officials said.

The clashes in Beit Hanoun broke out after two security officers were kidnapped by Hamas militants in Gaza City. One, shot in the leg, hailed from the northern Gaza town.

Witnesses said as soon as word of the shooting came through, the officer's relatives attacked an auxiliary force controlled by the Hamas-led Interior Ministry, killing one of its members.

They said the auxiliary force members retaliated by killing three people inside a hospital in the town. The report was confirmed by Nasser Radwan, a doctor at the hospital.

Hamas militants launched a rocket-propelled grenade at a police station of the Fatah-dominated National Security Force in western Gaza City Monday, and Fatah gunmen opened fire at the house of Sports Minister Basem Naim of Hamas, also in Gaza City.

The tit-for-tat killings continued Monday night in southern Gaza. Right after news spread of Abu el-Jidians' death, Fatah militants shot dead a member of the auxiliary force of the Hamas-led interior ministry who had been captured during the day. Hamas militants retaliated and killed a 35-year-old brother of Abu el-Jidian who was abducted during the attack on the house.

Earlier Monday, Fatah and Hamas representatives had agreed under Egyptian mediation to a truce and removing gunmen from rooftops and impromptu roadblocks set up by the two sides.

The head of an Egyptian security delegation, General Burhan Hamad, threatened later Monday that if Hamas and Fatah don't end infighting, he would lead thousands of Palestinians in the streets to demonstrate against the two fighting groups.

"I call on the leaders of the two fighting groups to come to my office tomorrow," Hamad told reporters in Gaza City. "We should agree on the total end of this ashamed fighting."

Meanwhile, Palestinian militants again intensified their rocket-fire at southern Israel Monday after a relative lull of several days.

They launched at least eight locally-made Qassam rockets from Gaza toward the Israeli town of Sderot and its surroundings, several of which struck open spaces in the Israeli Negev desert, the Israeli military said.

More than 60 Palestinians, most of them militants, and two Israeli civilians have died since a six-month-old Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire in Gaza collapsed in mid-May amid the rocket-fire.

First Published: Jun 12, 2007 09:31 IST