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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Factional Battles in Gaza Strip Undermine Cease-Fire Efforts

GAZA STRIP -- Mortar bombs exploded near the Gaza offices of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday and rival gunmen exchanged fire in the streets, ignoring another shaky truce in the factional war between Fatah and Hamas.

The fighting has brought life to a near standstill for residents of the narrow coastal strip, home to 1.5 million Palestinians.

Some Gaza residents ventured onto the streets for the first time in days to find masked gunmen manning checkpoints and most stores closed despite the latest cease-fire deal.

"We pray to God that the fighting, which only served Israel, will stop once and for all," Abu Mohammad said, standing outside his Gaza City home.

A hospital official said two members of Abbas' presidential guard, a force that receives U.S.-funded training and nonlethal equipment, died Sunday from gunshot wounds suffered in fighting over the weekend.

The latest deaths raised to 27 the number of Palestinians killed in factional clashes in the last four days. Few expected the truce, announced on Saturday, to last.

More than 80 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting since December, when unity-government talks between the ruling Hamas movement and Abbas' Fatah faction broke down and the moderate president called for new elections.

Palestinians hoped a unity government would help ease a Western economic boycott of the Palestinian government.

At the urging of Saudi Arabia, Abbas and Hamas' political leader Khaled Meshaal will hold meetings in the Muslim holy city of Mecca on Tuesday to try to resolve their differences over the government.

Previous talks between the two ended without agreement.