GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Members of a Hamas militia engaged in a daytime gunbattle with security officers in the worst outbreak of internal violence since rival Palestinian factions agreed to form a unity government last month, security officials said.
The gunbattle broke out in Gaza City when Hamas and Fatah loyalists argued over who had control of a nearby training compound, security officials said.
The Fatah-allied security forces demanded the Hamas militiamen leave the area, but they refused, saying it fell under the control of the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry, security officials said. There were no injuries.
In two other incidents, unknown assailants fired shots at the house and car of a senior security officer who has had past problems with Hamas, security officials said. Shots were also fired at a police headquarters, and police returned fire, the security officials said.
The fighting came as negotiators from Hamas and Fatah tried to resolve lingering issues over a national unity government. Hamas, which won parliamentary elections last year, and President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party agreed last month to form the coalition government, partly in hopes of ending months of deadly street battles between the two groups.
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said Monday that talks on the government were not done.
"The Palestinian government won't finish discussions or be announced before the end of next week," he said. Haniyeh has two more weeks to form a government.
Meanwhile, security officials said they believed hardline Muslims were behind the bombing of a music shop in the southern town of Khan Younis early Monday, following a similar attack on an Internet cafe on Sunday. Another Internet cafe owner was also briefly kidnapped. Nobody was injured in the attacks.
While there were no claims of responsibility, security officials suspect extremist Muslims trying to enforce strict moral conduct were behind the attacks. Hardline Muslims have said youths download pornography from Internet sites, are distracted from prayer by music and buy condoms and hallucinogenic drugs from some pharmacies. Since October, at least 20 such shops have been targeted.