updated 9/29/2007 9:15:15 PM ET 2007-09-30T01:15:15

Hamas and Fatah loyalists clashed Saturday at a mosque in the southern Gaza Strip, leaving nine people wounded in the latest flare-up of Palestinian infighting, witnesses and medical officials said.

The melee erupted after Hamas — the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza — brought one of its own religious leaders to preside over evening prayers at a Khan Younis mosque instead of the independent cleric who usually leads the service, witnesses said.

What began as fistfights among worshippers soon degenerated into face-offs with stones and knives. Hamas security officials who arrived at the scene fired rounds in the air, then came under fire themselves from a nearby area, witnesses said.

Medical personnel in Khan Younis said nine people suffered knife and gunshot wounds, including two who were critically hurt.

Hamas security officials were sealing the area and pressing the local clan to hand over the people who opened fire on Hamas forces.

Security officials confirmed a clash, but would not give details. The Hamas Interior Ministry, which is responsible for security in Gaza, said an unspecified number of people were arrested.

Hamas and Fatah are bitter rivals whose enmity deepened after the Islamists violently seized control of Gaza from Fatah security forces in June.

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