Palestinian eyewitnesses said gunmen from Hamas and Fatah were fighting running gun battles in the streets of Gaza City late Monday evening, as a cease fire announced less than a day before between the two factions further deteriorated. Israel Radio reported that gunmen identified by witnesses as members of Fatah snatched a Hamas Parliament member Monday evening. Minutes prior, Hamas officials had reported that Sufyan Abu Zaidah, a top Fatah official and former PA Minister for Prisoners Affairs, kidnapped earlier Monday, had been released. The condition of the Hamas parliament member was not reported. Fatah spokesman said Abu Zaidah was kidnapped in Jabalya and transfered to Beit Lahiya. Abu Zaidah's son, Basel, said the kidnappers seized his father while he was on his way to visit a family of a Fatah activist who was shot by Hamas members. Hamas has not claimed any responsibility for the kidnapping, although Fatah believes Hamas operatives were the perpetrators. Meanwhile, negotiations were underway to secure the release of ten more kidnapped officials. In a clash earlier Monday evening, gunmen killed a Fatah supporter in northern Gaza, the first fatality since rival Palestinian factions declared a truce Sunday night. The man was killed in a standoff between Hamas and Fatah gunmen in the town of Jabalya, according to Dr. Said Judeh of Kamal Radwan hospital. Five other people were wounded in clashes in northern Gaza, Judeh said. Also Monday, masked gunmen kidnapped the brother of a Fatah parliamentarian in northern Gaza, despite a shaky truce agreement to end the factional violence, the man's family said. Alaa Yaghi, a member of the Palestinian parliament from Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction, said his brother was snatched from the Fatah-affiliated charity association where he worked. Yaghi blamed Hamas for the kidnapping, saying it was carried out "as a message to me and the movement." Hamas officials could not immediately be reached for comment. On Monday morning, a 16-year-old boy was shot in the neck in renewed gun battles between Hamas and Fatah in the middle of Gaza City. About 10 masked Hamas gunmen, with rifles, grenades and rocket launchers, took shelter behind walls in downtown Gaza as they fought a dozen other gunmen from Fatah, witnesses said. Earlier, Fatah-affiliated Minister of Prisoner Affairs Sufian Abu Zaida said that the Palestinian people have a long way to go before installing democratic rule. Abu Zaida warned in an interview to Israel Radio that if the various PA factions didn't reach an agreement soon on PA elections, a "river of blood" would flow.
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According to Abu Zaida, the cease-fire agreed upon late Sunday was not being fully honored, but the level of violence had decreased.
Abu Zaida's statements came of the heels of a street battle outside the residence of Palestinian chairman Mahmoud Abbas at dawn Monday, which itself followed reports of an intense gun battle outside Fatah's head of Palestinian Preventative Security Service Muhammed Dahlan's house in Gaza late Sunday night, barely an hour after the cease-fire was announced.
Earlier Sunday, Palestinian Authority officials said the Hamas-Fatah clashes in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip may spread to Palestinian refugee camps in neighboring Arab countries.
The warning came as the conflict degenerated into mutual assassination attempts, kidnappings and the seizure of two Palestinian Authority ministries in Gaza City by forces loyal to Abbas. At least four Palestinians were killed and dozens were wounded in Sunday's clashes.
After two days of fierce clashes, Fatah and Hamas representatives announced that they had reached a cease-fire agreement under the auspices of a number of Palestinian groups, including Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The agreement, they said, calls for withdrawing all gunmen from the streets, ending the war of words between the two parties and the return of Palestinian Authority security forces and Hamas militiamen to their previous positions.
In addition, the agreement calls for ending street protests and the release all those who were kidnapped in the past few days, as well as the formation of a commission of inquiry that would investigate the events of the past few days.
Shortly before the cease-fire was announced, the bullet-riddled body of Adnan Rahami, a senior Fatah official in the Gaza Strip, was left at a hospital in northern Gaza late Sunday night.
Rahami, 42, who also serves in the PA National Security Forces, was kidnapped hours earlier in the Saja'iya neighborhood in Gaza City together with his two bodyguards, who were later released unharmed. Fatah officials said Hamas members were behind the killing.