Eight die in Gaza clashes

The death toll rose in worsening factional fighting in the Gaza Strip on Friday. Fatah forces stormed the Islamic University, stronghold of rival Hamas, and fighters loyal to the ruling Islamist party destroyed a Fatah radio station.

At least eight people died and dozens were wounded as the two factions clashed in the near-deserted streets after the breakdown of a tentative ceasefire that lasted barely three days.

The fighting has involved a variety of security forces linked to the Fatah party of Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority president, and members of the Hamas government’s Executive Force, largely made up of members of Hamas’s formerly underground military wing.

With each round of fighting worse then the last, despite a series of ceasefires, Gaza residents fear the conflict is degenerating into a civil war, which both sides have vowed to avoid.

There was widespread scepticism in Gaza about claims by unnamed Fatah officials that seven Iranians had been captured in the raid on Islamic University. Hamas denied the reports.

The latest Egyptian-brokered ceasefire this week was aimed at allowing the warring factions to resume talks on forming a national unity government. It collapsed when Hamas forces ambushed a convoy that they believed was carrying a consignment of weapons from Egypt to Mr Abbas’s Presidential Guard. Fatah said the trucks contained only non-lethal supplies.

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