Hamas forced to close its ministries

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The Independent Online

The Hamas-led Palestinian cabinet has closed all of its ministries after three more Palestinians were injured in sporadic factional violence. Eight people were killed in gun battles in Gaza on Sunday.

At the same time the Fatah faction organised a strike that closed offices, shops and schools in a show of strength against Hamas. The moves underlined the dwindling prospects of reconciliation between the two groupings, which were on the brink of forming a coalition last month designed to ease the international economic blockade of the Palestinian Authority.

Two bodyguards of the Hamas Deputy Prime Minister, Nassereddin al-Shaer, were shot in the West Bank city of Nablus yesterday. Earlier, a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades was injured, apparently by Hamas gunfire. At the Shifa hospital, Fatah gunmen accompanying the family of one of those killed on Sunday exchanged fire with Hamas paramilitaries. No one was reported injured.

Fatah militants also released Samir Birawi, a Hamas official in the finance ministry, after telling him they had kidnapped him to send a message to Hamas to end the violence.