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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hamas and Fatah Gunmen Battle in the Streets of Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Fierce gunfights erupted in the streets of Gaza City early Tuesday between forces of the rival Hamas and Fatah movements, killing at least three people and leaving a shaky truce in tatters.

The sound of automatic gunfire could be heard throughout Gaza City, and a Fatah security installation was attacked with mortar fire. Masked Hamas gunmen set up makeshift checkpoints on main roads, forces from the two sides took up strategic positions, and terrified residents remained indoors in anticipation of further fighting.

At least 18 people were wounded, including five schoolchildren caught in the crossfire of a gunfight, hospital officials said. A Hamas gunman was kidnapped and a top Fatah official's car was attacked by gunfire -- the latest unrest in a week of factional fighting that shows few signs of easing despite Sunday's declaration of a truce.

"It's a real war. Since the morning, I've been praying to God that this is going to end," said Suleiman Tuman, a shopkeeper who was trapped in his Gaza City grocery store by the fighting. "Both sides are responsible for this war."

Dozens of masked Hamas gunmen, armed with grenades and Kalashnikov automatic rifles, patrolled the streets outside his shop.

Hamas and Fatah have been locked in a power struggle since the Islamic group defeated Fatah in legislative elections in January. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, which seeks peace with Israel, controls the presidency, while the radical Hamas, which is committed to Israel's destruction, controls parliament and the Palestinian Cabinet.

The latest wave of fighting broke out last week, with tensions heightening after President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah announced plans to call early elections over the weekend. Hamas has condemned the plan as a coup.