|By DIAA HADID, Associated Press Writer
46 minutes ago
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Gunmen fired at the house of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and attacked the offices of the Hamas-run Culture Ministry on Monday, jeopardizing renewed efforts at halting the latest round of Palestinian infighting.
The new fighting between the Fatah and Hamas movements, which broke out during the weekend, has been especially brutal. The attack on Haniyeh's home came shortly after two rivals were dragged onto the roofs of Gaza high-rises and thrown to their deaths.
There were no reports of casualties in the pre-dawn attack on Haniyeh's house in the Shati refugee camp next to Gaza City. His office wouldn't say whether he was inside. But his wife, children and grandchildren were home, his family said. It was the first time in a month of infighting that Haniyeh was an apparent target.
Shortly after the shooting, Fatah and Hamas leaders called for calm ? in large part to allow thousands of high school seniors to take their matriculation exams in peace.
"This is shameful for our people," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said during a trip to a school in the West Bank. "I call on everyone to stop this immediately, not only because of the examinations, but also for our people to live a normal life."
About 24,000 high-school seniors in Gaza were beginning two weeks of final exams Monday, along with more than 40,000 others in the West Bank.
Daliya Naji, a 16-year-old student in Gaza City, said the fighting had kept her awake all night, and said she was having trouble concentrating.
"I am a good student, but I feel my brain is empty," she said ahead of her exams. "I can't think any more and I don't know what to do."
She said she hoped she would pass her exams in order to be accepted to a university in Egypt. "At least it will be my ticket out of Gaza," she said.
Early Monday, Hamas and Fatah-linked gunmen began pulling back from points of friction. But several such cease-fires in recent weeks have been short-lived, and sporadic shooting could be heard in Gaza City throughout the day.
At midday, gunmen attacked the Sports and Culture Ministry in Gaza City.
"It was the Fatah gangs. There was no justification. We were at work, and the ministry came under fire," a ministry official, identified only as Ahmed, told the Hamas-affiliated Aqsa Radio.
Culture Minister Bassem Naim, was inside the building at the time, said his sister, Huda. There were no injuries, she said, accusing Fatah of trying to kill her brother.
Fatah spokesman Maher Mekdad said the gunfire erupted after Hamas snipers on the roof fired at a security convoy. The security men returned fire, he said.
The two sides have been locked in a violent power struggle since Hamas defeated Fatah in January 2006 legislative elections, ending four decades of Fatah rule.
Hamas brought Fatah into its government in March in an effort to quell the internal strife, but the fighting reignited in mid-May over an unresolved dispute over who controls the powerful security forces. Fifty-five people have been killed in the latest outbreak of violence, most of them militants.
The fighting took a grisly turn on Sunday, when Hamas militants kidnapped a member of Abbas' elite presidential guard, took him to the roof of a 15-story apartment building and threw him to his death.
That set off skirmishes throughout the city, including gun battles and shelling. Fatah militants surrounded the house of a Hamas mosque preacher, fired rocket-propelled grenades at the four-story building and then entered, firing at the preacher, and taking him away. Later, his body was brought to a hospital. Hamas pledged revenge.
And just before midnight, a Hamas activist was thrown off the 12th floor of a building and killed, security officials said. Four other Hamas men in the building were shot and wounded, bringing the day's toll to three dead and 36 wounded, medical officials said. A Hamas militant wounded Friday in southern Gaza infighting also died on Sunday.
The deadly infighting has overlapped with new clashes between Israel and Palestinian militants who have been firing rockets at southern Israeli communities bordering Gaza.
Early Monday, Palestinian militants fired five rockets into southern Israel, the army said. There were no injuries, but the Education Ministry said high-school students in the border town of Sderot were moved to towns out of rocket range in order to take their final exams.
On Sunday, Israeli political and military leaders pledged to keep up the pressure on Gaza after Palestinian militants infiltrated Israel a day earlier in a failed attempt to capture a soldier.
(This is ridiculous, it's a civil war... plain and simple! With a healthy dose of a sadistic streak of mafiaism thrown in. Hhhmmm.... somebody has been watching too many episodes of the Soprano's lately!)