Fatah and Hamas agree to ceasefire after violence in Gaza claims six lives

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The Independent Online

Leaders of the two big rival Palestinian factions called a fresh ceasefire last night after another outbreak of internecine violence in Gaza in which six people were killed, 26 were wounded, including several children, and 11 were kidnapped, in the space of 24 hours.

In an unconnected incident in the West Bank, Israeli troops shot dead a 14-year-old Palestinian girl, Da'ah Abed al-Kadr, close to separation barrier near the city of Tulkarem. A 12-year-old girl who was with her was wounded in the same incident, which the Israeli military described as "very serious", adding that the soldier who had opened fire had not been authorised to do so.

It was unclear how long the agreement, announced by the President, Mahmoud Abbas, for Hamas and Fatah to withdraw armed men from Gaza's streets would last.The earlier, fragile, two-day-old ceasefire ended with a day of bloodshed, which began with an early morning gun battle at Gaza's Shifa Hospital between Hamas militiamen and members of a Fatah-dominated security service.

Both had maintained armed units in public throughout the day as many Palestinians fled the streets and shut up shops to avoid being caught in crossfire. Witnesses said the shooting at the hospital began when members of the General Intelligence service brought in a wounded colleague. Children on their way to school were forced to dive for cover. Dr Juma al-Saqqa, of Shifa Hospital, told Israel's Channel Two TV: "We as medical staff are unable to do our work... in these circumstances while they are shooting and bombing everywhere."

The Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, in a 90-minute televised speech declaring his opposition to elections but also urgently appealing for an immediate end to the internal violence, blamed the violence on Mr Abbas's call for a new election. But he declared: "We have to show self-restraint and dialogue to resolve our differences. I am calling on everyone to calm down."