GAZA,(Reuters) – Rival Palestinian gunmen battled on the streets of Gaza on Tuesday despite a renewed pledge to curb the biggest surge of factional fighting in months.
Palestinian leaders were expected to renew their appeals for calm in speeches marking the annual “Naqba”, or what Palestinians describe as the tragedy that befell them when Israel became a state in 1948.
No deaths were reported in the morning in the on-going fight for supremacy between power-sharing partners Hamas and Fatah. Ten people have been killed since a new round of violence, threatening their coalition government, erupted on Friday.
Masked gunmen ruled Gaza. Residents who risked leaving home darted across streets, shoulders hunched, to the crackle of volleys from automatic weapons.
Sirens were to sound at 1 p.m. (1000 GMT) in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip to commemorate the day when Palestinians traditionally band together to remember the past.
Late on Monday, Palestinian factions said they agreed to work to keep gunmen off Gaza’s streets. Similar pacts in the past have failed to secure the territory, which has sunk deeper into disarray since Israel withdrew troops and settlers in 2005.
Gun battles erupted within hours of the pledge to end the violence.
The Presidential Guard, loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, said Hamas gunmen had fired mortar bombs and rocket-propelled grenades at its compound at the Karni commercial crossing with Israel, wounding several people.
The Ministry of Interior and positions of Hamas’s Executive Force came under attack from gunmen firing assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades in assaults that Hamas blamed on Fatah. No one was hurt.
Voicing his frustration over the chaos, Interior Minister Hani al-Qawasmi, an academic who had been Hamas’s choice for the post overseeing the security services, resigned on Monday.
Officials said powerful Fatah rivals had challenged him throughout for control of the armed contingents. His resignation raised new doubts whether the unity government Islamist Hamas and secular Fatah formed two months ago could survive. “We are afraid that some people want to shoot the bullet of mercy against the Mecca agreement,” Fatah official Abdel-Hakim Awad said, referring to the Saudi-brokered coalition agreement, which also included pledges to end chaos.
“We will work to prevent that because if it happened, it would bring a catastrophe to the internal situation and the area will sink in a blood bath.”