Gaza Falls Deeper Into Chaos

Palestinian mourners carry the body of Talat Haniya, a member of the Hamas executive force, a security force set up by Hamas after winning the Palestinian elections last year, during his funeral in Gaza City, 18 May 2007.
Israeli planes pounded Hamas targets and rival Palestinian factions exchanged bursts of automatic weapons fire outside Gaza City's Islamic University Friday. The volatile mix of Israeli strikes and Palestinian infighting plunged Gaza deeper into chaos.

Five Palestinians were killed in a single air strike by Israel, which said it was responding to Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel — a campaign that showed no sign of subsiding Friday. Hamas fired three rockets at the town of Sderot, where three people were injured by shrapnel and several others were treated for shock.

Hamas has fired more than 100 rockets across the border this week, reports CBS News correspondent Robert Berger. Hamas gunmen also clashed with members of the rival Palestinian faction for the sixth straight day.

In other developments:

  • Israel has been aiding Fatah against Hamas by allowing Fatah to bring into Gaza as many as 500 fresh troops, the Washington Post reported Friday. The fighters were trained under a U.S.-coordinated program to counter Hamas. The Bush administration and Israel want to strengthen Fatah militarily and politically but have been trying to avoid being seen as taking sides in the Hamas-Fatah conflict.
  • Israeli and Palestinian businessmen launched a joint council on Friday in Jordan, saying they want to advance networking and promote peace despite the raging violence in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli-Palestinian Business Council's 10 founding members, all prominent businessmen, will work toward advancing the "relationship between the two business communities and, ultimately, assist the region to move toward durable peace and coexistence," the World Economic Forum said in a statement.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition government won a reprieve on Friday when Labor party allies turned down a call by rebels to bolt the alliance immediately, but Labor's central committee said it would meet again to review its support for Olmert's administration after May 28 primaries.

    Outside the Islamic University — a Hamas stronghold — one person was wounded from the exchange of fire but it was not immediately known from which side.

    Members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' presidential guard and other Fatah loyalists were advancing on Hamas fighters from different directions — and the house of the university's dean was attacked by rocket propelled grenades, according to Hamas.

    However, presidential guard spokesman Ali al-Kaisi denied his group was involved in any attack on the university.

    The university's president, Kamelen Shaath, appealed for an immediate halt to the violence.

    "Universities must be outside the circle of violence and I appeal to the president and all the wise people on both sides to try and spare the university the agony of this fight," he said.

    In six days of mayhem, 46 Palestinians have died in the infighting and another 17 were killed in Israeli strikes.

    The fighting between Hamas and Fatah has all but destroyed a two-month-old power sharing deal between them, and brought them close to all-out civil war. The Israeli strikes have introduced a new layer of violence and uncertainty — though a senior army official, speaking on condition of anonymity because no official decision has been made, said Israel had no immediate plans for a major ground offensive to halt rocket fire.

    Israeli aircraft fired missiles east of Gaza City on Friday, killing five Palestinians, at least three of them Hamas militants, and wounding six people, Hamas and local doctors said. The military said the target was a Hamas headquarters building. Two other strikes followed but there was no word of any casualties, Palestinian doctors said. The army said it struck at a squad that fired rockets into Israel.

    • Tucker Reals

      Tucker Reals is the foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.