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Last Updated: Monday, 18 December 2006, 04:13 GMT
Palestinian factions 'agree deal'
Palestinian presidential security guards
Armed men have been out in force in Gaza over the weekend
Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah say they have reached a deal to end violence in the Gaza Strip.

Officials of Hamas, which runs the Palestinian government, said they had agreed a truce with Fatah, loyal to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Fatah officials also spoke of a deal, but there were reports of heavy gunfire continuing into Sunday night.

Gaza City was wracked by fighting throughout the day, with two killed after Mr Abbas called for elections.

Hamas described the apparent deal as a "ceasefire to end the violence" between all armed Palestinian groups.

They said all armed men were being asked to get off the streets of Gaza and the West Bank.

Violent day

The reports came at the end of a turbulent few days in the Palestinian territories.

Gaza City saw running street battles throughout Sunday - mortars were fired at Mr Abbas's office in Gaza City, and at least three people were killed across the Strip.

The dead included a 19-year-old female university student, killed in crossfire as rival Fatah and Hamas supporters clashed in the streets of Gaza City.

A senior commander loyal to Mr Abbas was also found dead several hours after being abducted.

The bullet-ridden body of 40-year-old Adnan Rahmi was discovered in northern Gaza.

In other violence:

  • A convoy carrying Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar was attacked. In response, Mr Zahar accused Fatah of launching a "coup"
  • One person died when a training centre for presidential guards was hit in the morning
  • There were reports that two government ministries were occupied by forces loyal to Mr Abbas
  • In northern Gaza, unidentified gunmen opened fire at a pro-Fatah demonstration, injuring several people, reports said.

Sunday's attack on Mr Zahar's convoy was the second apparent attempt on the life of a senior Hamas leader in three days: Prime Minister Ismail Haniya escaped a hail of bullets when crossing into Gaza from Egypt on Thursday.

A Hamas spokesman accused a senior Fatah figure of organising that attack.

Abbas backed

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas consulted election officials on Sunday about taking steps towards holding new presidential and parliamentary elections.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
Mr Abbas's call for elections was televised on Saturday
Hamas won a sweeping victory in parliamentary elections in January, but has faced an international aid boycott since because of its refusal to renounce violence or recognise Israel.

The current administration was elected until 2010, but the US and UK both backed Mr Abbas's call for new elections.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is on a diplomatic tour of the Middle East, arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday evening for talks.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Clashes between rival Palestinian factions





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