By Mirek O
After a week of relative calm in Gaza, violence broke out again in Gaza Strip after the death of two Hamas members in what the anti-occupation group described as a roadside bomb attack on a convoy by members of the former ruling Party Fatah.
Hamas spokesman Abdel-Latif Qanoua said it would "chase those killers who carried out this cowardly action".
The incident prompted fierce clashes between members of the two rival factions, while Hamas supporters gathered to mark a year since the Islamist group defeated President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party in Palestinian elections.
The fighting, which reports said was the deadliest between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza for months, killed at least 13 people, including two civilians.
A two-year-old boy was among those killed, according to Palestinian medics.
Violence also included the kidnapping of members of both factions.
Fatah reportedly abducted six Hamas men in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya early Friday, residents told Reuters.
Hours after the two Hamas members had died in the roadside bomb attack, Hamas fighters surrounded the house of Mansour Shaleil, a local Fatah leader in the Jabaliya refugee camp just north of Gaza City, seeking to question him in regard to the roadside bomb.
Two people were killed in the fighting that followed the siege, but Shaleil was left unharmed.
Fighting also reached the residences of the Palestinian President Mr. Abbas and Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, whose home was reportedly damaged following a rocket-propelled grenade attack, according to security sources.
Fatah and Hamas members announced canceling talks aimed at forming a national unity government.
"How can the dialogue go on when there is a bomb underneath the table?" Fatah spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khoussa was quoted by Reuters as saying.
But Hamas blamed Fatah for the stalemate.
"The Fatah movement continues to give a factional, political and media cover to the killers. Hamas has therefore decided to suspend all talks with Fatah," spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.
Fighting between Hamas and Fatah since mid-December killed more than 40 people. And officials from both parties have so far failed to reach an agreement to form a national unity government.
Bush sells Fatah weapons
Numerous reports over the past months revealed that U.S. and Israel supply weapons to Fatah forces to support President Mahmoud Abbas, whom they see as “moderate”.
Washington is believed to have been sending advanced weapons to the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' party in recent months that witnessed a noticeable deterioration in the conflict between the group and Hamas, the Islamist organisation that controls the Cabinet and parliament and which has pulled the carpet from under Fatah, the former ruling Party, according to World Net Daily.
Also senior Palestinian officials revealed that during the U.S. Secretary of States Condoleezza Rice’s meeting with President Abbas last month, she pledged U.S. military support to Abbas' Force 17 security forces, including providing it with new weapons to strengthen the group against now the ruling Party Hamas.