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(photo credit: Channel 10)
The Palestinian premier wrested an agreement early Wednesday from Hamas and the rival Fatah Party to stop violent incidents, hours after Hamas gunmen attacked a Fatah funeral procession and children were caught in crossfire in Gaza City.
On Tuesday night, top officials from both movements issued an "urgent call" for calm following a meeting between Hamas' political leader Khaled Mashaal and Fatah official Farouk Kaddoumi in the Syrian capital.
"We call everyone to resort to calm and rule of law and turn clashes to dialogue," said a joint statement by the two officials. "If strife occurs the Zionist Entity will be the only beneficiary."
On Tuesday, at least 14 people were wounded in renewed clashes between supporters of Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip. Eyewitnesses said among them were five children who were on their way to school.
The clashes came despite efforts by representatives of the two parties to ease tensions and prevent an all-out confrontation. On Monday, three gunmen were killed in a fierce battle that erupted near Khan Yunis.
Fatah leaders accused Hamas of kidnapping one of their supporters in Gaza City early Tuesday morning, triggering an armed clash between gunmen belonging to both parties. In the evening, more clashes erupted in Khan Yunis during the funeral of two Fatah gunmen who were killed Monday.
Some eyewitnesses claimed Hamas gunmen opened fire at the mourners, wounding three people. They said the attackers used automatic rifles and rockets during the funerals of Muhammad al-Jaraf and Hamadeh Ibrahim.
"I don't know what Hamas wants," said Fatah warlord Samir Masharawi. "Last night we agreed to end the fighting and solve our problems through dialogue. Unfortunately, the fighting resumed this morning after Hamas gunmen kidnapped a Fatah member. This fire will burn all of us, and I don't know where we are headed."
Hamas, on the other hand, accused the Palestinian Authority security forces of beating a top aide to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. The man, Ahmed Yusef, was traveling in his car when he was stopped by members of the Preventative Security Service, who assaulted him before taking him into custody.
"They beat Yusef with their fists," said Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri. He said a Hamas legislator, Sayed Abu Musameh, who was with Yusef in the car, was also detained briefly.
"These security forces are dealing in a murderous way with government officials and leaders of the Palestinian people," Masri said. "They stop their cars, beat them and arrest them."
Last month members of the same force, which consists solely of Fatah supporters, prevented Haniyeh's convoy from passing through one of the main streets in Gaza City. One of the officers involved in the incident, Mansour Hosni, was later abducted by Hamas gunmen who shot him in the knees.
Commenting on the attack on Yusef, Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel said such incidents reflected the extent of corruption and chaos in the Preventative Security Service. "This is a despicable action," he said. "We are demanding the dismissal and punishment of the heads of this security force."
Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled cabinet, expressed "deep regret" at the renewal of armed clashes. "The events that took place today are very serious and painful," he said. "Yesterday we agreed with all the factions to end the violence, but some people are trying to foil our efforts."
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told reporters in Ramallah that he had ordered the PA security forces to take action against anyone who tries to initiate internecine fighting.
Describing the clashes as "regrettable," he said some parties were inciting for more violence, but did not elaborate.
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