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Six dead after Gaza gun battle

Arafat, incoming prime minister battle over Cabinet posts

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A Palestinian firefighter inspects the rubble of a food store Sunday hit by an Israeli tank shell in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza.

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- As more evidence of a rift in the Palestinian leadership appeared late Saturday, fierce fighting during an Israeli military operation in Gaza left six people dead and more than 100 injured.

During the operation, a gun battle in Rafah killed five Palestinians and one Israeli soldier and wounded more than 100, most with minor injuries, according to Palestinian medical sources and the Israel Defense Forces.

The shooting occurred as at least 50 Israeli tanks, two Apache helicopters, bulldozers and armored vehicles went into a neighborhood in the Rafah refugee camp near the border with Egypt, Palestinian witnesses said.

During the overnight raid in Gaza, the IDF said it uncovered stores of ammunition and destroyed two tunnels, thought to have been used to smuggle weapons from Egypt.

One of the tunnels discovered by Israeli forces ran 33 yards (30 meters) deep under the Egyptian border with Gaza, an IDF spokesman said. Soldiers found vests with hand grenades, along with bullets and other ammunition, according to the IDF.

Palestinian security sources said the IDF blew up three houses and arrested three brothers in Rafah.

The IDF spokesman said one of the homes demolished belonged to the head of Hamas in Rafah. The spokesman said Israeli soldiers faced stiff resistance from anti-tank rockets, hand grenades and massive gunfire. The soldiers left the Rafah area after the operation ended early Sunday, he said.

An Israeli military source said the operation was part of a move "to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure."

The U.S. State Department has labeled Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization, as a terrorist group. The group's military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military.

The IDF said 10 tunnels used for smuggling weapons have been uncovered and destroyed under the Egyptian border with Rafah this year.

Abbas walks out of meeting

Meanwhile, signs of a possibly serious rift on the Palestinian leadership also appeared late Saturday.

CNN confirmed that Prime Minister-Designate Mahmoud Abbas, commonly known as Abu Mazen, abruptly left a Palestine Liberation Organization central committee meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Saturday night.

According to the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, the walkout took place because Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat planned to block Abbas' choice for a key ministerial post.

Sources said that there are arguments over Cabinet personnel and what should be the priority in pursuing negotiations with Israel.

Ha'aretz reported that Abbas wants Mohammed Dahlan, the former Preventive Security forces commander in Gaza, to be in charge of security in the new Cabinet. Arafat, however, wants that responsibility to remain with the current interior minister, Hani el-Hasan, one of his loyalists.

Sources said recent attempts to bridge the gap between Arafat and Abbas have failed. The differences between the men are rooted in a power struggle, with Arafat seeking to retain as much control as he can, according to sources.

Abbas doesn't see the point in taking the post unless he can do what he thinks needs to be done, sources said.

Abbas must form a new Cabinet by a Wednesday deadline, but Palestinian political sources tell CNN the struggle between the two is serious and at this stage it looks as if a showdown cannot be avoided over the Cabinet's formation.

"There are now grave doubts " that Abbas will be able to form a government by Wednesday's deadline, sources said.

Under Palestinian legal procedures, if a new government is not formed by the deadline, Arafat must appoint someone else to come up with a Cabinet list.

The so-called Madrid Quartet -- the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia -- have agreed to publish a Middle East "road map" for peace once a prime minister takes office.

Rocket hits home in Israel

On Sunday morning, a Qassam rocket, thought to have been launched by Palestinians in Gaza, landed on the roof of a building in southern Israel, Israeli police said. One woman suffered minor injuries from smoke inhalation in the rocket attack.

Part of the rocket flew into the building in Sderot about 7:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m. EDT) and ignited cartons inside, Israeli police said.

Sderot is often the target for makeshift Qassam rockets, which have a range of 3.7 to 6.2 miles (six to 10 kilometers). (Rocket details)

In the West Bank, IDF troops killed a Palestinian on Saturday after he attacked the Shaked settlement near Jenin in the West Bank, according to the IDF. He shot and wounded a security guard and two Israeli soldiers before he was shot dead, the IDF said.

On Sunday, a Palestinian throwing Molotov cocktails at cars near the settlement of Azoun was shot and killed by soldiers, the IDF said.

Friends and colleagues carry the body of cameraman Nazih Darwazeh, who was shot by Israeli troops in Nablus.
Friends and colleagues carry the body of cameraman Nazih Darwazeh, who was shot by Israeli troops in Nablus.

Israeli officials said they continue to investigate Saturday's shooting that killed a Palestinian cameraman during a clash in the West Bank town of Nablus between Israeli troops and Palestinians.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli military denied witness accusations that a soldier fired directly at journalists.

The cameraman, Nazih Darwazeh, 44, was shot in the head while Israeli troops were making an incursion into Nablus, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society and Miftah -- the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy.

Sixteen Palestinians, mostly schoolchildren, were wounded in the clash, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said.


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