GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Gunmen armed with rifles, grenades and explosives climbed down from rooftop positions Saturday and residents began venturing out of bullet-scarred homes after their leaders agreed to end a week of Palestinian factional bloodshed in Gaza.
The truce began to take hold as Israel launched a fifth day of airstrikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in reprisal for the Islamic militant group’s rocket attacks on Israeli border towns. Other recent cease-fires between the factions have been short-lived but Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said he expected this one to stick because of Israel’s military action.
“No one would accept to fight one another while the Israelis are shelling Gaza,” he said.
The clashes between Hamas and Fatah gunmen loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have brought the two groups that nominally share power to the brink of civil war. More than 50 Palestinians have been killed in a week of infighting.
The overlapping violence from Israel’s attacks on Hamas rocket operations has killed 23 other Palestinians in the past week.
On Saturday, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz vowed to keep going after Hamas militants who would fire rockets at Israel, warning them to be “very afraid.”
Still, Peretz said time was not ripe for a major Israeli ground offensive in Gaza.
An Israeli airstrike killed three people in a car in Gaza early today, Palestinian medics said. Israel said the car was carrying three Hamas radicals and a load of weapons.
On Saturday, four Palestinians were killed in air attacks on Hamas targets, while five rockets from Gaza hit the Israeli border area, causing damage, but no injury.
The Palestinian infighting broke out May 13 after Abbas stationed thousands of security forces on the streets of lawless Gaza City – a move Hamas interpreted as a provocation because it wasn’t consulted.
Saturday’s truce committed the battling factions to pull their fighters off the streets and exchange an unknown number of hostages.