There’s been an outbreak of fighting between Palestinian factions in the northern Gaza Strip, killing a Hamas gunman, and wounding seven other Palestinians including at least two Fatah fighters. Each side blamed the other for the outbreak, which began with small arms fire in the town of Beit Hanoun, and escalated to include mortars and rocket-propelled grenades by the end of the night.
It’s the first death in clashes since Hamas and Fatah agreed in Saudi Arabia to stop fighting each other, and form a united administration. The violence came shortly after the Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh announced that they were just a few days away from announcing a unity government.
In talks over recent weeks, the two sides had failed to agree on the vital interior ministry post, an impasse he says is now close to resolution. Security is tight in Jerusalem for a meeting between the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
But the two leaders are not expected to make significant progress. Olmert is expected to re-affirm his country’s demand that any new Palestinian government recognises Israel, something Hamas is not prepared to do.