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Tit-for-tat killings raise Gaza tensions

GAZA, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Tit-for-tat killing of officials close to Fatah and Hamas amid deadlock to form a national unity government is expected to raise inter-Palestinian violence.

The two rival Palestinian groups have been exchanging accusations of stirring internal strife and holding each other responsible for rampant chaos and insecurity in the Palestinian territories, especially in the Gaza Strip.

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Hamas' military wing, al-Qassam Brigades, accused a Fatah-affiliated security body of assassinating Judge Bassam Farra outside a courtroom in Khan Younes south of Gaza Wednesday.

A statement by the Brigades said the group known as "the Death Squad," affiliated with the Fatah's Preventive Security Agency, opened fire at Farra killing him instantly as he headed to work.

"Farra has been repeatedly threatened by this squad," the statement said, vowing that Hamas "will chase the killers and punish them for committing the ugly crime."

Farra, a lecturer at al-Aqsa University and a judge at Khan Younes Primary Court, was a senior member of Hamas.

Witnesses said three gunmen sprayed Farra with automatic gunfire before jumping in a car and fleeing.

Hamas spokesman Abu Abidah told United Press International "the killers of Farra aimed at stirring troubles in the Palestinian street and inciting internal strife."

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Ismail Haniyeh, Prime Minister of the Hamas-led Palestinian government, commented on the incident by stressing that "there is no room for civil strife in Palestinian mentality."

Wednesday's assassination occurred two days after the three children and driver of Fatah-linked intelligence officer Bahaa Baalousha were assassinated in central Gaza City as they traveled to school. Baalousha was not in the car which was sprayed by at least 60 bullets.

Baalousha held the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry responsible, accusing it of negligence and slackness in curbing rampant insecurity.

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