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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 October 2006, 04:39 GMT 05:39 UK
Factions step up clashes in Gaza
Funeral for Palestinian man in Gaza
Both sides blame each other for provoking the violence
At least two people have been killed and 14 hurt in Gaza and the West Bank in new clashes between gunmen loyal to Hamas and the rival Fatah party.

The Hamas administration has said it will shutter all government offices in protest at attacks by Fatah supporters.

Eight people died and some 60 were hurt when gunmen from the rival groups clashed in Gaza on Sunday.

The clashes have been triggered by cash-starved Hamas' inability to pay the wages of government workers.

Western aid payments to the Hamas-led Palestinian government have been sliced since early this year over the militant group's refusal to renounce violence and recognise Israel.

According to the BBC's Alan Johnston in Gaza, the resulting economic crisis has played into the long-standing tension between Hamas and Fatah.

The latest violence is believed to mark the most serious round of internecine fighting since Hamas came to power in March.

'Kidnap attempts'

Violence erupted in Rafah on Monday when a march organised by Fatah supporters passed a base used by Hamas militiamen.

The government has announced the suspension of work in government institutions because of the attacks against the seat of government... and attempts to kidnap officials
Ghazi Hamad
Hamas government spokesman

In Nablus, in the northern West Bank, armed attackers wounded at least two bodyguards of deputy Prime Minister Nasser al-Shaer of Hamas.

And a shopkeeper in Jericho was killed by gunmen when he refused to comply with a strike imposed to protest against events in Gaza.

Earlier on Monday, protesters loyal to Fatah had stoned the home of Refugees Affairs Minister Atef Udwan in Beit Hanoun.

Armed Fatah supporters also clashed with Hamas guards at the main hospital in Gaza City, as they came to collect the body of one of those killed in Sunday's clashes.

Civil servants, including security forces loyal to the Fatah faction, have been protesting about not receiving full salaries from the Hamas-led government.

Map

On Sunday, the Hamas militia in Gaza moved in to end the protests, sparking armed confrontations in Gaza and retaliation against the seat of government in Ramallah, on the West Bank.

The Hamas-led administration said on Monday that the work of the government had been suspended following "attempts to kidnap officials".

The government says it cannot afford to pay the full salaries of civil servants because of the embargo by Israel and Western countries, which regard Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya has also been locked in an increasingly bitter power struggle with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah.

The two have been trying unsuccessfully to form a unity government, eight months after Hamas crushed Fatah in parliamentary elections.

Mr Abbas is being pressured by Washington not to join a Hamas-led government unless it meets international demands, including recognition of the legitimacy of Israel.

This week Mr Abbas is due to meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is visiting the region in an effort to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.


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