Gaza City has faced Friday one of the most severe clashes of Hamas militants with Palestinian police, leaving two Palestinian teens dead and wounding 25 people. Five Hamas militants were killed by Israeli airstrikes.
The increased violence followed a Palestinian rocket attack that killed an Israeli woman late Thursday, reports the AP. Militants continued firing rocket and mortar barrages throughout Friday.
Palestinian security forces, under pressure to stop the attacks on Israel, were on high alert, and Israeli troops were massing at two makeshift camps outside Gaza, though it was unclear whether Israel was preparing a raid into the volatile coastal strip. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz was to meet with top generals later Friday to decide on a course of action.
For their part, the militants continued their attacks on Israeli targets, launching 19 homemade rockets and 34 mortars at Israeli targets between Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon, says the AP.
BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston says that the Palestinian leadership appeared to have launched a concerted effort to exert its authority by force.
Earlier Hamas militants threatened to wage civil war in return to the attacks on them.
The recent escalation, set off earlier this week by a suicide bombing that killed five Israelis, is threatening to collapse a five-month-old truce. If fighting spins out of control, it could also endanger Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' rule and overshadow the planned Israeli withdrawal from Gaza next month. Israel has said it would not pull out of Gaza under fire.
The U.S. urged Abbas to take immediate action in order to put an end to attacks on Israelis by militant factions, Israel Radio reported on Friday.