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Page last updated at 21:26 GMT, Saturday, 2 August 2008 22:26 UK

Militants killed in Gaza battle

Hamas security forces during clashes with Fatah supporters in Gaza on 2 August, 2008
It has been the bloodiest round of internal fighting in more than a year

Nine people have been killed in Gaza in fighting between militant group Hamas and allies of its rival, Fatah.

Reports said up to 88 people were hurt after Hamas officials surrounded a house allegedly linked to a bombing that killed five Hamas men and a girl.

Israel has allowed nearly 200 Fatah members, including at least one key clan member wanted by Hamas, to cross the border, Israeli officials said.

Saturday's violence was the worst in a week of tit-for-tat operations.

The latest operation was also among the most sweeping since Hamas seized power in Gaza from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in 2007.

Dozens of people have been arrested in Gaza and the West Bank in the past week during Hamas and Fatah operations against each other's supporters.

An Israeli army spokesman said that some of the Fatah members who entered Israel laid down their weapons as they approached the Gaza crossing.

Those who were injured were sent for treatment at Israeli hospitals.

Suspicion

The group targeted on Saturday, known as the Hilles clan, has denied accusations it was involved in the bombing of Hamas operatives on 26 July.

However, Hamas fighters surrounded the family home in Gaza City on Saturday morning, using grenades and mortars in an effort to storm the house, reports said.

Hamas and Fatah have to stop fighting for all of us
Falastin Sefady
Mother of bombing victim

A spokesman for the Hamas-run interior ministry said the Hilles family was hiding the bombing suspects in its compound.

"The Hilles family has become a military force and members of the family have been attacking, abducting and even killing people. We must put an end to their attacks on innocent citizens," the spokesman, Ehab al-Ghasin, said.

The family denies the allegation.

Israeli military officials were quoted as saying dozens of members of the clan who fled the fighting were allowed into Israel.

A clan leader and senior Fatah member, Ahmed Hilles, was among them, Palestinian officials said.

The wounded were taken to Israeli hospitals and the rest to Ramallah in the West Bank.



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