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Factional Fighting Continues In Palestinian Territories

A group of Hamas militantsib Gaza City on December 17 (AFP) December 18, 2006 -- Suspected Hamas gunmen killed a Fatah supporter in Gaza today, the latest death in fighting between the two groups that intensified after Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas on December 16 called for early parliamentary and presidential elections.

In a separate incident, masked men kidnapped the brother of a Fatah member of the Palestinian parliament today in northern Gaza. Fatah accused Hamas of being behind both incidents.

Fatah supporters and Hamas members also exchanged gunfire near the Foreign Ministry today.

Also today, Abbas met with visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The Palestinian leader repeated he would go ahead with plans to hold early elections, despite Hamas objections.

Hamas won a majority in parliamentary elections earlier this year. Since then Fatah and Hamas politicians have been unable to form a unity government.

In other news, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said today he supported Abbas's plan to hold early presidential and parliamentary elections.

Olmert added that he hoped to meet with Abbas very soon and that he planned to set up a committee with the Palestinians in the near future to discuss the issue of Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel.

(AP, Reuters, AFP)