Fragile truce in Gaza jeopardised

A brief but ferocious gunbattle between Hamas and Fatah militants broke out in Gaza City early on Friday, underscoring the fragility of a two-day-old truce, introduced between the rival factions.

The street fight, which encompassed the house of Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas and the Gaza residence of President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, died down after about 20 minutes as Muslim clerics and other mediators worked to restore the ceasefire. President Abbas was not in Gaza at the time.

Meanwhile in Washington, President Bush signed a law aimed at blocking aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government and banning contact with Hamas until they agree to renounce violence and recognise Israel.

The two factions agreed to a truce on Tuesday, which was aimed at ending violence that left dozens of people dead and injured dozens more across Gaza City.