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20 Dec, 2006 10:50

New threat for peace process in the Middle East

New threat for peace process in the Middle East

Hamas gunmen have killed two Palestinian policemen loyal to the Fatah movement in Gaza, just hours after the rival sides agreed to a new ceasefire which ended more than a week of factional fighting.

Fatah officials condemned the killing but said they were still committed to the truce.

Several thousand mourners vowed revenge at the death of two Fatah loyalists killed just after the truce took effect. The angry crowd set cars on fire and stormed shops, raising fears the truce wouldn't hold for much longer.

“The latest period was very difficult in our area. We hope, God willing, this calm will continue. It's got so bad that one can't even be safe walking the streets,” said Said Nabhan, a resident of Gaza.

“Something is better than nothing. When the country is in war and destruction, we'll only head backwards. And if we go back, this year will never come back – not even after one hundred years,” resident Yousef Sakallah said.

The truce follows a wave of the worst factional violence in Gaza in decades – the climax of long-standing political tension between Hamas and president Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement.

Fatah seeks peace with Israel and controls the presidency. Hamas is committed to fighting Israel and controls parliament and the Cabinet.

Street battles erupted last week and intensified over the weekend, after Abbas and his supporters said they would push for early elections to break the political deadlock.

“When everything is at an impasse, it's better to resort to ballots and avoid bullets. If we can't reach a consensus on this political programme and the formation of the new government, the only solution is to have one political program, and go back to the ballot box,” claimed Palestinian Cabinet Member and Fatah Member, Abdullah Abdullah .

The radical Hamas group rejected the move saying it would not participate. But leaders of both factions are urging the Palestinians to abide by the truce deal. And most of the locals do hope the ceasefire will hold.