( AP ) - Hamas militants unleashed a barrage of rockets at an Israeli town after a brutal day of factional fighting with Fatah rivals in Gaza that killed 15 people, confining terrified residents to their homes and raising the specter of Israel being dragged into the bloody conflict.
Renewed clashes erupted early Wednesday in Gaza City, as Hamas gunmen stormed the home of a top Fatah official, killing five of this bodyguards inside, Palestinians security officials said.
The gunmen fired mortars at the house of Fatah security chief Rashid Abu Shbak before storming it, planting pipe bombs and executing those inside, the officials said.
Witnesses reported seeing heavy smoke rising from the home of Abu Shbak. He and his family were not home at the time of the attack, but at least a dozen of his bodyguards occupied the house. Preventive security forces, which Abu Shbak used to head, were sent in for reinforcement.
Abdel Hakim Awad, a Fatah spokesman, angrily accused Hamas' leadership of the attack on Abu Shbak's house.
"All [Hamas] are killers from top to bottom; all are implicated," he said. "What is happening is killing in cold blood, and this is criminal."
He said Abu Shbak's home was destroyed and burned, and his guards executed.
Tuesday's rocket salvo on the town of Sderot, just outside Gaza, wounded 17 Israelis, one seriously -- a woman whose house took a direct hit. Ambulances raced back and forth across the battered town, picking up casualties. Residents counted more than 20 rockets.
It was the first time in three weeks that Hamas, which runs the Palestinian government alongside Fatah, claimed responsibility for firing rockets at Israel. Hamas officials said the barrage was retaliation for an Israeli attack at an Israel-Gaza crossing point earlier Tuesday, an apparent effort to draw Israel into the fray.
Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz summoned army commanders for late-night consultations to consider Israel's next move. In a low-key first response to the rocket barrage, Israeli aircraft fired missiles into open areas of northern Gaza, the military said. No one was hurt.
Israel was a minor player in the attack at the crossing, firing at Hamas militants as they carried out the most brutal of this week's fighting. Hamas gunmen riddled a Fatah police jeep with gunfire at close range, killing eight policemen guarding the Palestinian side of the Karni cargo terminal, the only entry and exit point for Gaza goods.