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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 13:26 GMT
Gaza ceasefire comes into force
Masked Fatah gunmen in the northern Gaza Strip. File photo
Fatah and Hamas have ordered their gunmen off the streets
A ceasefire has begun in the Gaza Strip after several days of fierce fighting between the two main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah.

But several firefights have broken out and a Hamas member has been shot dead.

The truce came into effect at 0300 (0100 GMT), after being announced by Mahmoud Zahar, foreign minister in the Hamas-led government.

Recent fighting between the groups has left 30 dead, the worst violence since Hamas came to power in 2006.

A spokesman for the Islamist militant Hamas movement said one of its members had been shot dead in Gaza by rival Fatah gunmen. Details of the incident have not been confirmed.

Street battles had intensified over the past five days amid a bitter power struggle between the two sides in Gaza.

The BBC's Alan Johnston in Gaza says it will be some hours before it will be possible to tell whether the truce will hold.

As the ceasefire was declared, Israeli aircraft bombed a tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border.

The Israeli military said the tunnel was going to be used by Palestinian militants to attack Israeli targets.

It came one day after a Palestinian suicide bomber from Gaza killed three people in the Israeli resort of Eilat.

Mediation

Mr Zahar announced the truce flanked by Fatah representatives after talks between Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas and a senior aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah.

Despite all the bitterness and sadness that we are feeling, we will work to make it succeed
Maher Mekdad
Fatah spokesman

"All clashes must stop and armed men must withdraw immediately from the streets," he said, reading from a joint statement.

He said the two sides had also agreed to remove checkpoints that had sprung up in many places and release hostages taken recently.

Fatah spokesman Maher Mekdad said his group would observe the ceasefire.

"Despite all the bitterness and sadness that we are feeling, we will work to make it succeed," the Associated Press news agency quoted him as saying.

Egyptian diplomats brokered the Hamas-Fatah deal which came after days of mediation.

The clashes erupted after weeks of relative calm and led both sides to suspend talks aimed at forming a national unity government.

A similar deal was reached a few days ago, but our correspondent says that Monday's truce has a better chance of sticking as fighting has been less intense in the last 48 hours.


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Ceasefire is announced by the Palestinian foreign minister





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