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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 January 2007, 23:28 GMT
Saudis seek Palestinian dialogue
Mecca's Grand Mosque
Mecca's Grand Mosque has been suggested as the talks venue
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has invited rival Palestinian leaders to a meeting in Mecca aimed at ending a recent wave of factional fighting.

Three days of clashes between the governing Hamas faction and its rival, Fatah, have left at least 24 dead.

In an open letter, the king described the violence as a "disgrace" and urged leaders to make "dialogue prevail over the language of arms".

Hamas and Fatah accepted the invitation but no date was set for the meeting.

At least two people died in clashes on Sunday, including a member of Hamas' security force in Gaza City and a civilian in southern Gaza.

The worst violence in months has also sparked a spate of abductions.

As the violence which began in the Gaza Strip spread to the West Bank, a senior Hamas member in the city of Nablus was abducted by a group of Fatah-affiliated gunmen, witnesses said.

Gunmen from the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades marched into a city centre bank and seized Fayyad al-Arba in front of news crews and startled counter staff.

What is happening on the pure land of Palestine is a disgrace, which has tarnished the history of the honourable national struggle of the people of Palestine
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
In a separate incident elsewhere in the city, five officials were abducted from the Hamas-run ministry of education.

On Sunday evening, there were clashes between Hamas gunmen and members of the Fatah-dominated Preventive Security Service, outside its Gaza City headquarters.

Earlier the home of a top aide to senior Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan was destroyed by a bomb.

And clashes broke out on Sunday morning on the streets of Gaza City between militants using guns and grenades.

Talks collapse

Soldiers could be seen standing behind makeshift barricades in the city, blocking the major roads, and across the whole of northern Gaza shops remain closed and one university has shut its doors.

Overnight a 10-year-old boy, the son of a Fatah militant, was killed when the family's home came under attack.

In making his invitation, King Abdullah asked them to Mecca "to discuss disputes in a neutral environment without intervention from any other side", the official Saudi news agency SPA reported.

Gunmen seize Fayyad al Arba
Gunmen marched into a Nablus bank and seized a Hamas official
"What is happening on the pure land of Palestine is a disgrace, which has tarnished the history of the honourable national struggle of the people of Palestine," his letter was quoted as saying.

The clashes of the last few days erupted after weeks of relative calm.

The two factions had been making renewed efforts to form a national unity government to satisfy the demands of international donors.

The US and the European Union froze funding when Hamas, the largest Palestinian militant Islamist organisation took office last March, demanding that Hamas renounce violence and recognise Israel.

Both sides have blamed the other for the outbreak of violence and say they have suspended their talks.


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