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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
Rival groups join forces in Gaza
Palestinian security forces on the streets of Gaza
Palestinian security forces recently fought on Gaza's streets
A major Palestinian security operation has begun in Gaza, in a joint effort by rival political parties to crack down on violence and lawlessness.

Hundreds of troops, some loyal to rival factions Hamas and Fatah, which only recently clashed in Gaza, have reportedly fanned out on the streets.

Up to 400 people have died in clashes since the Islamist Hamas won last year's parliamentary elections.

But the rival parties agreed to form a coalition government earlier this year.

There is a full agreement. The determination is there and I think what we will see in the next 48 hours is a full deployment to deal with the lawlessness in the Gaza Strip
Nabil Shaath
Fatah leader

As many as 3,000 police were to take part in the operation, the Associated Press reported.

One official told the AFP news agency that troops took up positions in the north of Gaza at entrances to towns and at major road junctions.

Witnesses said that security personnel were inspecting vehicles on the approach to Gaza City and asking passengers to show their identity cards.

Turmoil

"There is a full agreement," senior Fatah leader Nabil Shaath said of the deal between Fatah and Hamas.

"The determination is there and I think what we will see in the next 48 hours is a full deployment to deal with the lawlessness in the Gaza Strip."

Palestinian police deploy in Gaza
Police are trying to bring lawless Gaza under control
He said forces loyal to Fatah and Hamas would now wear the same police uniform and answer to the interior ministry, which has been placed under the control of a political independent in the coalition government.

Previously, there was a dispute over whether the Hamas government or President Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah, had supremacy over the security forces.

The full details of the security plan are not known.

The first phase was set to last 100 days and to cover traffic and crime fighting, the Associated Press said.

Gaza has been in turmoil since Israeli forces pulled out in 2005.

Factional rivalry, criminality, and high unemployment have prevented the territory from functioning normally, while the flow of aid has also been hit by Western restrictions.

Kidnapping has become rife in Gaza. One of the recent victims is the BBC's Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston, who was seized at gunpoint more than eight weeks ago and is still being held.




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