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6 killed in Palestinian factional violence

PALESTINIAN forces stormed a Hamas hideout in the northern West Bank, setting off a fierce battle that left six dead yesterday in the bloodiest factional violence since the Palestinian president launched a crackdown on the Islamic militant group two years ago.

Hamas militants threw grenades and fired automatic weapons to push back the raid, drawing dozens of government forces to the scene. After the battle, hundreds of spent bullet casings, puddles of blood and tear gas canisters were visible at the hideout, a two-story building in Qalqiliya, a West Bank town.

Two top Hamas militants who had been on the run from Israel for years were among those killed, along with an unarmed Hamas supporter and three Palestinian policemen.

Meanwhile, Washington stepped up its calls on Israel to halt all settlement construction in the West Bank.

An Israeli Cabinet minister close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the latest voice to reject the demands.

"This Israeli government will never agree to freeze and starve the legal Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria," Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz told Army Radio, using the term used by some Israelis for the West Bank.


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