Gunfights between Hamas and Fatah gunmen erupted across the Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing four people, wounding several others and effectively destroying a three-day-old truce that brought a brief period of quiet to the volatile area.
Hamas militants fired mortar shells near Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' residence in Gaza City and nearby street battles sent residents fleeing in terror. Some left their cars idling while they sought shelter.
Masked gunmen took up positions on rooftops, while others took cover in alleyways below. Abbas was not in Gaza at the time.
The violence broke out in the central Gaza town of Bureij on Thursday afternoon after Hamas militants hijacked a convoy delivering supplies to the Fatah-allied security forces, security officials said. Security reinforcements were seen flooding into the town.
Soon after, separate gunbattles broke out in Gaza City and in northern Gaza outside a military intelligence post. Security officials said Hamas militants fired a rocket at the post and then sacked it, injuring five members of the security forces. At least two Hamas supporters were wounded, Hamas said.
A Fatah member was kidnapped in northern Gaza during the clashes, and one security officer was wounded, security officials said.
"Fatah views with gravity the series of violations to the agreement, which has gone beyond the acceptable limits," Fatah said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Israeli troops killed three Palestinians and wounded a fourth in violence in the West Bank and along Israel's frontier with Gaza, reports AP.
In Gaza, unknown gunmen opened fire early Thursday at Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum as he drove with three bodyguards in his white sedan toward an impromptu checkpoint near Gaza City, Hamas said. There were no casualties. A Hamas announcement blamed "coup-seekers," meaning militants from the rival Fatah party.