Headquarters in crossfire

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Militants battling on the rooftops of Gaza fired on the Palestinian government headquarters yesterday, forcing ministers to flee the building. The unusually brazen factional fighting left 17 Palestinians dead, including three killed in a hospital gunbattle.

Fighting between Fatah and Hamas forces resumed over the weekend, and the attacks have grown bolder. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s home sustained gunfire early yesterday, and hours later a Hamas supporter was killed in a firefight near Beit Hanoun Hospital, witnesses said. The fighting shifted into the hospital, where three persons with ties to Fatah were killed.

On Sunday, two militants from the rival sides were dragged onto high-rise rooftops and thrown to their deaths.

The fighting yesterday marred the first day of matriculation exams for thousands of high school students in Gaza. With the students in mind, Mr. Haniyeh, of Hamas, and President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah urged the sides to maintain calm. But their efforts to reach a cease-fire quickly collapsed.

“This is shameful for our people,” Mr. Abbas said during a trip to a school in the West Bank. “I call on everyone to stop this immediately, not only because of the examinations, but also for our people to live a normal life.”

Sporadic gunfire could be heard throughout Gaza City during the day, intensifying several times.

Mohammed Madhoun, an aide to Mr. Haniyeh, said the government building was caught in the crossfire between rival Fatah and Hamas forces perched on the roofs of nearby buildings.

“The ministers are gone and the shooting is indiscriminate,” he said.

Mr. Haniyeh’s office wouldn’t say whether he was home during the pre-dawn shooting there, but his wife, children and grandchildren were inside, his family said.

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