Palestinian security forces arrested seven Iranian citizens during a raid Thursday night at the Islamic University, a Hamas stronghold in Gaza City, a security official said.
According to reports, another Iranian citizen committed suicide during the raid.
The raid came during a large-scale assault by Fatah-affiliated gunmen on the university, which followed a day of gunfights between Hamas and Fatah gunmen throughtout the Gaza Strip.
The new wave of street battles killed at least six people, one of them a security officer, wounded dozens, and effectively destroyed a three-day-old truce that brought a brief period of quiet to the volatile area.
The violence broke out in the central Gaza town of Bureij on Thursday afternoon after Hamas gunmen hijacked a convoy delivering supplies to the Fatah-allied security forces, security officials said.
Security reinforcements were seen flooding into the town.
Soon after, separate gun battles broke out in Gaza City and in northern Gaza outside a military intelligence post. Security officials said Hamas gunmen fired a rocket was fired at the post.
A Fatah member was kidnapped in northern Gaza during the clashes, security officials said.
Col. Burhan Hamad, the head of the Egyptian security team in Gaza that negotiated the truce, denounced the attack on the convoy as “unjustified” and angrily blamed Hamas. He appealed to the warring factions to stop the new clashes. The Islamic Jihad, in the role of peacemaker, called for convening an urgent meeting to discuss resumption of the truce.
Also in Gaza, unknown gunmen opened fire early Thursday at Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum as he drove with three bodyguards in his white sedan toward an impromptu checkpoint near Gaza City, Hamas said. There were no casualties. A Hamas announcement blamed “coup-seekers,” meaning gunmen from the rival Fatah party.
Later Thursday, gunmen in a car shot at Islam Shahwan, a spokesman for a Hamas militia, Shahwan said, blaming the shooting on Fatah-affiliated security officers. One Hamas member was wounded, he said.
Other sporadic shooting attacks were reported Thursday, including one that wounded a Hamas member.
The early incidents didn’t unravel the cease-fire, but on Thursday afternoon Hamas gunmen ambushed an official convoy guarded by the presidential guard and hijacked two trucks filled with tents, medical kits and toilets, security officials said. The attack sparked the new fighting.
“How can they attack the presidential guards like that when there is a cease-fire?” asked Wael Dahab, a presidential guard spokesman.
In the wake of the fighting, security officials reestablished roadblocks near Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s official residence in Gaza City. Masked security officers took up positions throughout the streets.
Masked Hamas gunmen also carjacked a police jeep near the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City, stealing the weapons of those in the vehicle, security officials said.
The truce was declared early Tuesday by leaders of Fatah and Hamas and was meant to bring an end to internal fighting that has left more than 60 Palestinians dead since early December, though it did not resolve the underlying animosity between the groups.