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Death toll reaches 43 in the past 48 hours as the conflict intensifies in Gaza

June 12, 2007 3:06 P.M. (Updated: June 12, 2007 3:06 P.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - Director General of ambulances and emergencies in the Palestinian Health Ministry, Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, said that 21 Palestinians were killed on Tuesday evening. Ten of the dead are national security members and eleven are from Hamas.

Clashes erupted around the main station of the security forces in the northern Gaza Strip.

Hassanein said this brings the death toll in the last 48 hours to 43, in addition to dozens of injuries.

Hundreds of security men deployed in the streets were confronted by hundreds of Hamas members and the sound of explosions and shooting could be heard in the different areas of the Gaza Strip.

Clashes on Tuesday

A member of the Palestinian security forces and a member of the Hamas-affiliated Al Qassam Brigades were killed on Tuesday and 14 other Gaza citizens were injured during ongoing armed confrontations between Hamas and Fatah in Deir al Balah, in the central Gaza Strip.

Our Gaza correspondent stated that the clashes spread to several areas of the strip, whilst the Al-Qassam Brigades announced the northern Gaza Strip "a closed zone."

Palestinian medical sources announced that national security service member, Muhammad Safi, aged 35, was killed east of Deir al Balah.

The Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, announced that one of their members, Ihab Nassar, was killed in the same area.

In Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Al-Qassam combatants and members of the Executive Force, which is affiliated to the interior ministry, were deployed in the streets and erected roadblocks in order to inspect cars.

In addition, the body of 'Umar Nabhan Rantissi, 20, the nephew of the Hamas leader, Abdul Aziz Rantissi, who was assassinated by Israel in 2003, was found on Tuesday morning in Khan Younis. He had been kidnapped on Monday around 10 pm. Hamas blamed Fatah for his assassination.

Unidentified gunmen also took control of a building which is a part of Khan Younis municipality on Tuesday, after raiding it and taking three hostages.

Also in Khan Younis, at least four shells were launched at the Technological Science College causing vast damage.

Earlier on Tuesday, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's house in Gaza City, causing material damage but no casualties, Palestinian security sources reported.

In another incident, four mortar shells were fired towards the headquarters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza City. Also no casualties were reported.

200 gunmen raid PLC member's home

Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) from the Fatah bloc, Nabil Sha'ath's, home in the northern Gaza Strip was raided by more than 200 gunmen on Tuesday.

Sha'ath's escort, Hani Rawwagh, told Ma'an that Sha'ath's house was invaded by a huge mob of gunmen and its contents were demolished.

Rawwagh added that the gunmen injured one of Sha'ath's escorts before they withdrew.

Hamas has not confirmed the story.

Executive Force declares state of alert

The Executive Force, which is affiliated to the Palestinian interior ministry, declared on Tuesday a state of alert and summoned all its members to be ready. They said that they would "no longer" remain with their hands tied in the face of all those who incite against the Executive Force.

In a statement received by Ma'an, the Executive Force affirmed that they are part of the Palestinian security services. They added that their role is particularly important when the performance of the security services is being questioned.

The statement added that "the mouthpieces of sedition" against the Executive Force "were launched as if this force was alien to the Palestinian people." On the contrary, the Executive Force said that it represents "the elite" of the Palestinian resistance factions.

Al-Aqsa Brigades' threats

The statements of the Executive Force followed threats from Fatah's armed wing, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, that they would take their battle to the West Bank.

Following the death of the secretary general of the Fatah movement in the northern Gaza Strip region and a senior Al-Aqsa leader, Jamal Abu Al-Jidyan, in clashes late on Monday evening, the Al-Aqsa Brigades threatened on Tuesday to target Hamas leaders and activists in the West Bank.

Fatah spokesperson Abu 'Uday told Ma'an exclusively via telephone, "Our warning to Hamas starts before Monday midnight and ends Tuesday at 11:00 pm."

He added: "If Hamas continues to kill Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip, as they did with Jamal Abu Al-Jidyan, and his family, we will target all Hamas leaders and activists in the West Bank without exceptions. We will strike hard in order to deter the Hamas leadership who give the orders to kill our brothers in Gaza Strip."

Eyewitnesses also said that fierce confrontations took place in western Gaza City on Tuesday morning near the home of Fatah spokesman Mahir Miqdad.

Some of the dead are named

On Tuesday afternoon, Palestinian medical sources named the following dead due to clashes over the past 24 hours:

Yasser Bakir, 27; Saddam Bakir, 18; Basil Kafarna, 25; 'Eid Al-Masri, 56, and his sons Faraj Al-Masri, 23, and Ibrahim 'Eid Al-Masri, 21; Muhammad Mihjiz, 20; Muhammad Dahdouh, 21; Mazen 'Ajouz, 30; Jamal Abu Al-Jidyan, 45, and his brother Majid Abu Al-Jidyan, 33; Ms. Rayah Mihsin, 75; Ms. Sara Mihsin, 15; Ms. Dalal Mihsin, 19; Jamal Rabi', 13; 'Umar Rantisi, 20; and Mousa Abu Zeinah, 40.

Our correspondent also reported on Tuesday morning that at least 10 houses had been torched in western Gaza City.

**Updated 10pm, 12 May 07, Jerusalem time
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