Fatah and Hamas move towards war

HOPES of a Palestinian state received a double blow yesterday as an alleged assassination attempt in Gaza moved Hamas and Fatah closer to civil war and Israel grabbed more of the West Bank.

As Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, headed to Washington to push his plan for annexation of parts of the West Bank, Israeli defence ministry officials confirmed that the boundaries of the settlements on the western side of the separation barrier Israel is building in the West Bank were being expanded.

In Gaza, security forces affiliated with Fatah said they had foiled what they described as the second attempt in two days to assassinate a top commander loyal to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. They said they had found and destroyed a 154lb roadside bomb along a route used by Rashid Abu Shbak, director of internal security and a figure reviled by Hamas.