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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 April 2006, 02:30 GMT 03:30 UK
Rival students clash in Gaza City
Masked members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade
The Hamas-led government has appealed for calm
Several people have been hurt in Gaza City in clashes between rival groups of students supporting ruling Palestinian party Hamas or their opponents, Fatah.

The two sides fought around their campuses, throwing stones and homemade explosives and exchanging gunfire.

The factions later agreed to work to reduce the tension which arose after a decision by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr Abbas, who also leads Fatah, vetoed Hamas plans for a new security force.

Deep divide

Hamas and Fatah representatives emerged late on Saturday night from talks brokered by Egyptian diplomats in Gaza City to say they were committed to restoring calm.

They said they were ordering their followers to bring the tension to an end and that a committee would be formed to resolve any future problems.

Although the two parties say they will now put their differences aside, many people here will be sceptical, the BBC's Alan Johnston reports.

The latest tensions showed again how deep the divide is between the factions and how suspicious they are of one another.

Hamas has just taken control of the government but the presidency is still in Fatah's hands and the potential for serious friction in future remains great, our correspondent says.

Plot claims

On Thursday, new Palestinian Interior Minister Said Siyam announced the formation of a shadow security force comprising members of militant groups with militant leader Jamal Abu Samhadana as its leader.

Mr Abbas later issued a presidential decree nullifying the Hamas-led government's proposal.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal reacted by talking of a plot against the Hamas administration.

Outraged Fatah supporters staged a number of demonstrations in Gaza and the West Bank to demand an apology.

At least 15 people were wounded in the fighting in Gaza City, which involved students from two of the city's universities.

Al-Azhar University is dominated by Fatah and the Islamic University - by Hamas.




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