Hamas-Fatah truce breaks down

Palestinian factional fighting in Gaza leaves 14 dead as EU resumes aid to government.

    Hamas fighters rushed to defend the Palestinian cabinet meeting after gunfire disrupted it [Reuters]
    Gunfire disrupted a Palestinian cabinet meeting in the Gaza, forcing ministers to flee the offices of Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister.
     
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    Inside a Beit Hanoun hospital in northern Gaza, four people were killed and at least 15 injured in a gun battle.
     
    Odeh said the gun fight "began outside the hospital and extended inside the hospital ... where many of the wounded were already receiving treatment".
     
    In the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, Jamal Abu al-Jedian, a co-founder of Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, was killed in a Hamas assault on his house.
     
    His home was attacked after a Hamas fighter was killed.
     
    "Help us. They want to kill us," a woman inside the house pleaded earlier in a telephone call to a radio station.
     
    Jedian's brother was also seized by Hamas fighters and was later found dead, Fatah officials said.
     
    In a separate incident, at least three Palestinians were killed in a clash in a refugee camp in Gaza City.
     
    Financial assistance
     
    Meanwhile, the EU resumed aid to the Palestinian finance ministry on Monday, breaking an economic boycott it imposed on the government more than a year ago.
     

    Fayyad, right, and Kjaer signed the agreement
    resuming direct European assistance [AFP]

    Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian finance minister, and John Kjaer, an EU Commission representative, signed the agreement to resume direct aid to the Palestinian authority.
     
    The EU, one of the biggest donors to the Palestinians, suspended direct aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) after Hamas won elections in March 2006.
     
    The EU's financial assistance begins with a $5m project intended to ensure "that Palestinian taxpayers' money is spent efficiently and that all expenditures are accounted for to the highest international standards".
     
    The money will be paid in instalments until June 2009 and Ernst & Young, the international accountancy firm, will provide training to the PA as part of the project.
     
    Fayyad said in a statement that the EU's support would help "ensure that we work in accordance with the best international standards" and ensure Palestinian money was "legally and honestly spent".
     
    Lost progress
     
    An IMF report, published in March, said that much of the progress achieved in years prior to 2006 to strengthen the finance ministry's control over government finances and increase transparency had been lost.
     
    Despite the freeze on direct aid, the EU extended aid indirectly through a mechanism that avoided the Hamas-led government, increasing aid in 2006 to reach about $934m.
     
    But Fayyad said the PA's economic hardships would not be resolved until Israel released hundreds of million of dollars in customs duties that it has withheld since Hamas took power.
     
    "We call on Israel to transfer the money as rapidly as possible," he said.
     
    Israel collects the funds on behalf of the Palestinian Authority on goods routed through Israel.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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