A member of Hamas was killed Saturday in a fresh flare-up of fighting with Fatah and dozens of men from both sides were injured. Gunbattles broke out Saturday evening in the south Gaza town of Rafah, where Hamas accused its rivals of firing at its men from a house used as a Fatah base.
17 hurt in renewed PA Gaza clashes
Hamas in turn blew up a building used by Fatah and tit-for-tat skirmishes raged late into the night. Hamas said one of its local field commanders, Ahmed Abu Harb, was killed in the fighting and hospitals said they received a total of 59 casualties.
A Gaza-wide truce declared two weeks ago was meant to end vicious fighting between the sides in which more than 50 Palestinians have died since mid-May, but on Thursday the violence returned when a Fatah man was killed in a Rafah shootout.
Fatah said Hamas blew up a house used by Fatah supporters in the town and Hamas said Fatah killed one of its local commanders. Palestinian security officials said that dozens of people from the two sides were wounded in the fighting.
Earlier Saturday, medics at a northern Gaza Strip hospital walked off their jobs for a few hours to protest the kidnapping and kneecapping of a doctor by Palestinian militants, the first physician targeted in months of deadly infighting.
Dr. Fayez al-Barrawi, a known Hamas supporter, was blindfolded, handcuffed and shot six times in the legs, including a kneecap, and then tossed on the street Thursday. Hamas has said Fatah militants were behind the kidnapping.
Al-Barrawi worked at Beit Hanoun hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, close to the border with Israel.
It is the first time a doctor was seized. However, militants often fire on paramedics and ambulances during gun battles.
"We strongly condemn that medical officials should be the victims of security chaos," said hospital director Jamil Suleiman, in a statement faxed to The Associated Press.
Militants have also used hospital rooftops and grounds as firing points, prompting their rivals to fire upon hospitals, threatening staff and patients.
Meanwhile, a newspaper reported Saturday, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told leaders of his Fatah movement that a collapse of Fatah's shaky coalition with Hamas will lead to more chaos.
The Hamas-Fatah government, formed in March, is threatened by the renewed flare-up of tensions and violence between Hamas and Fatah gunmen in Gaza.
In a speech to Fatah leaders late Friday, Abbas warned that "the alternative to the national unity government is chaos and loss," according to the Al Ayyam daily.
Abbas said Fatah must act responsibly. "Fatah will not be the trigger to ignite the fire," he was quoted as saying. "On the contrary, it will work to extinguish the fire."