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Fatah, Hamas agree to end Gaza fighting

Gaza (dpa) - Leaders of the ruling Fatah and opposition Islamic Hamas parties early Wednesday announced an end to the gunbattles that erupted Tuesday in the northern Gaza Strip between militants of the rival Palestinian movements.
Fatah leader Sufian Abu Zaida, Palestinian Authority minister of prisoners' affairs, and senior Hamas leader for the northern Gaza Strip Sheikh Nizar Rayan made the announcement in a joint press conference in Gaza City.

"We are very pleased to inform you that an agreement has been reached between the two movements to end all kinds of violent confrontations as well as removing all phenomena of arms in the streets,'' said Abu Zayda.

The agreement would end almost a week of tension and fighting in the northern Gaza Strip between militants of the Hamas armed wing al-Qassam Brigades and both Fatah rivals and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority security forces.

"Both movements reached the agreement one hour ago, and me and Doctor Nizar Rayan toured the northern area of the Gaza Strip, and we found an amazing commitment by both sides to our agreement,'' said Abu Zayda.

Fighting erupted on Thursday and Friday, when three people were killed and more than 25 wounded between security officers and Hamas militants. Street battles were renewed on Tuesday, this time between Hamas and Fatah militants, leaving another 15 people injured.

"I repeat what my brother Sufian said,'' said Rayan. "We had met in good moods and good atmosphere, and we put together points for this agreement, which is ending immediately fighting and removing all phenomena of arms.''

He added that commanders of the two movements' militants were immediately contacted, and that they had warmly welcomed the agreement "and started immediately implementing it''.

Neither Abu Zaida nor Rayan mentioned any agreement to halt the firing or homemade rockets and mortar shells into Israel and at Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has threatened that it would move its army forces deep into the Gaza Strip to prevent firing of rockets at Israel and Israeli settlements.

Earlier Tuesday, leaders from Hamas and officials in the Palestinian Authority (PA) argued over an agreement by Palestinian political parties and militant groups, reached in March in Cairo, to halt attacks on Israel.

Hamas claims that Cairo agreement gives the militant groups the right to retaliate if Israel carries out military actions against the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who also leads Fatah, insists that the Cairo agreement settled that retaliation required the consent of all the Palestinian factions that were party to the deal, not individual groups such as Hamas.

The disputes between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are taking place just four weeks before the Israeli government implements its unilateral withdrawal and evacuation of settlements from the entire Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank.

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