There are hopes for an end to the ongoing chaos in Gaza. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has invited the leaders of the rival Palestinian factions to Mecca for talks. He has called for an end to the fighting, describing it as a “grave crime”. Hamas and Fatah have accepted the invitation but no date has been set for the meeting. The third day of clashes saw the death toll climb to 28. Those killed included a Hamas militant and a civilian.
Tensions rose with more tit-for-tat kidnappings. Among those seized were top Hamas and Fatah commanders, a Fatah intelligence officer and two children of a Fatah colonel. A number of captives have since been released, but several still remain under guard.
The violence is the worst since Hamas came to power a year ago. Clashes beginning in Gaza have spread to the West Bank. But they come after weeks of relative calm, in which the two sides made renewed efforts to form a national unity government, acceptable to the West. They’ve since called off talks.
In between emergency meetings with Egyptian security officials and his cabinet, Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh appealed for national unity. But gun battles continued to rage in Gaza. Shops have been closed and some families have begun evacuating their homes. They hope the next round of diplomacy will mean they can return to peace in the region.