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17 Palestinians killed in two days while efforts fail to end Hamas - Fatah infighting

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GAZA, Jun 12, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The fierce infighting between rival Fatah and Hamas movements' militants continued Tuesday for the second consecutive day in the Gaza Strip, leaving a total of 17 people dead.

Egyptian efforts to end the infighting failed on Tuesday, after leaders of factions expressed to high-ranking Egyptian security officials in Gaza that they are not able to leave their homes dues to the heavy infighting.

Ayman Taha, a spokesman from the Hamas movement told reporters that his movement doesn't oppose a meeting with all factions to end the fighting.

However, before calling for a meeting, the militants on the ground from both sides must be called and asked to cease-fire in order to allow factions leaders arrive at the Egyptian delegation' s office, he added.

General Burhan Hammad, head of the Egyptian delegation had called on factions leaders to meet as immediate as possible on Tuesday afternoon to end the infighting and pullout from the streets.

"If they (Fatah and Hamas) won't ceasefire immediately, I would call on Palestinian civilians to go out to the street and I will lead demonstrations against them," Hammad told reporters in Gaza.

On the ground in several areas in the Gaza Strip, the situation looked very different from what politicians are talking about.

Palestinian eyewitnesses said that unknown gunmen have fired a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at the house of Prime Minister Ismail Haneya of Hamas in western Gaza City on Tuesday morning.

There have been no reports of injuries in this incident which marks second day of fierce clashes between Hamas Islamists and security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement.

Meanwhile, a website affiliated with Hamas reported that Fatah militants have abducted and killed a nephew of late Hamas leader Abdel Azia al-Rantissi in southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis.

The latest casualty brings to 17 the number of Palestinians killed since Monday. Most of the slain were members of Fatah and their civilian relatives, including women and children.

As Hamas rejected Fatah's ceasefire proposal, tens of gunmen from the Islamic movement blockaded the house of Fatah spokesman, Maher Miqdad, in northern Gaza City minutes after sunrise on Tuesday.

The siege came as Hamas and Fatah gunmen exchanged fire from rooftops around Miqdad's house which is located in a residential complex made up of about 13 apartment buildings.

Houses of two senior Fatah partisans were also shelled in Gaza City and in northern Jabaliya town last night, leading to the killing of Jamal Abu el-Jidian, Secretary General of Fatah movement in northern Gaza Strip.

Members of Abu al-Jidian family and another family of a Fatah security member in Gaza City were killed in the events.

The fighting renewed though delegations of the two factions were holding talks in Egypt following an earlier round of violence started in mid-May.