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Palestinian clashes cast gloom on reconciliation efforts

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Strained relations between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah came to a head on Sunday when Palestinian Authority forces got into a shoot-out with Hamas members in the West Bank that left six dead. Sunday's eight-hour battle was the worst fighting between Palestinians since Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah two years ago. It has also raised new questions about Palestinians' ability to restart the peace process with Israel without a unity government.

During a patrol in Qalqilya, a northern West Bank town with a strong Hamas following, Palestinian police spotted armed members of Hamas. The patrol followed them to a house where a standoff ensued, according to media reports. When it ended, two senior Hamas operatives, three Palestinian police officers, and the owner of the house were dead.

The incident was followed by major protests in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip where demonstrators accused Fatah, which controls the West Bank, of collaborating with Israel. Hamas officials say that Fatah should be prepared for reprisal attacks.

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