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Fatah, Hamas make deal for fourth cease-fire

Story Highlights

• NEW: Hamas militants launch rockets into Israel
NEW: Israel retaliates for rocket attacks with airstrikes
• More than 40 killed in four days of Palestinian fighting
• Strength of unity government tested
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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Battles between Palestinian factions in Gaza claimed more than a dozen lives Wednesday, while Hamas militants launched rockets into Israel, provoking Israeli military airstrikes on Hamas.

The Palestinian leadership, both Fatah and Hamas, announced another cease-fire to take effect at 8 p.m. (1 p.m. ET), Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti told CNN.

It will be the fourth attempt at implementing a truce in as many days. (Watch as gunfire crackles through Gaza streets Video)

"I hope it will work," Barghouti told CNN, adding that "the situation is miserable."

The latest Israeli airstrike targeted a rocket-launching site outside Jabaliya in northern Gaza, killing one Hamas militant and wounding three others, Palestinian security sources said.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the airstrike was carried out on a group of militants who had just launched a missile toward Israel. It offered no details on casualties.

More than 40 Palestinians have died since the latest round of Hamas-Fatah fighting broke out Sunday in Gaza.

In a sign of the heightening chaos, fighting in central Gaza City forced dozens of journalists to take cover in Ramattan studios, a 15-story building that had come under fire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, according to reporters inside.

Their ordeal was captured on a live video feed, which initially showed the journalists inside closely huddled together, wearing bullet-proof vests that read "Press."

Many of the journalists had donned helmets and ducked amid the sounds of artillery fire outside.

Cheers, warning amid cease-fire

Around 8:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. ET), shortly after the cease-fire took effect, cheers erupted among the journalists amid reports that most of the gunmen had withdrawn from the area, an Al-Jazeera journalist said.

"The situation does remain volatile," Nour Odeh cautioned, saying she had just heard an explosion.

Video showed bullet holes inside the room where the journalists had been holed up. Reporters then opened a sliding glass window to videotape the situation outside.

CNN's Ben Wedeman, who spoke to his contacts in Gaza, said the gun battle was possibly an attempt to take control of the building, one of the tallest in Gaza.

The building's roof is manned by armed Fatah-affiliated security personnel and was taking fire from Hamas-affiliated gunmen, a journalist inside the building told Wedeman.

"When the fighting began, the journalists in Ramattan contacted security officials, who told them there was nothing they could do to help them and advised them just to take cover," Wedeman said, citing the journalist.

The Palestinian government is struggling to quell the latest round of fighting, which has highlighted the weaknesses of the Hamas-Fatah unity government, formed earlier this year in an effort to end the previous round of infighting.

Deputy Palestinian Prime Minister Azzam al-Ahmad said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas -- leader of the Fatah movement -- could declare a state of emergency, which would give him more control over the Palestinian security forces.

But Barghouti said there is no intention of declaring a state of emergency.

While a state of emergency would give Abbas more control of the situation, it could also highlight his inability to control Hamas forces if it fails to end the fighting.

Abbas spoke to Hamas' exiled leader, Khaled Meshaal, on Wednesday, and both pledged to do everything within their power to end the fighting between their rival movements, Barghouti said.

Israel's response to rocket attacks

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz vowed to "respond vigorously" to the more than two dozen Palestinian rockets launched into Israel, which have injured at least 17 people in the past two days.

The latest rocket attack happened around 5:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m. ET) in Sderot -- a frequent target for the Qassam rockets -- and directly hit a home, seriously injuring one person, medical services told CNN.

In response to the rocket attacks earlier in the day, the Israeli military carried out airstrikes on Hamas headquarters in Rafah -- near the Gaza-Egypt border -- an Israeli army spokeswoman told CNN.

Four Palestinians were killed in the Israeli airstrike, according to Palestinian medical sources.

On Hamas' Web site, the militant group claimed responsibility for several of Wednesday's rocket attacks.

One of the rockets landed near Peretz's home in the western Negev desert, but he was not home at the time.

"Israel cannot tolerate attacks on its citizens," Peretz said. "We will do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereignty and to ensure the safety of our citizens. Israel will not be a party to an internal Palestinian power struggle."

In consultation with Peretz and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday cleared the Israeli military to "carry out a series of actions in order to hit those who launch Qassam missiles and their commanders, to disrupt launch capabilities and to strike at terrorist infrastructures," according to a statement from the prime minister's office

Many Israelis feel that the rocket attacks are an attempt by Hamas to provoke an Israeli ground incursion, possibly as an effort to reunite the fighting Palestinians against a common enemy.

On Wednesday, five Hamas militants were killed in Gaza City, Palestinian security sources said. Hamas blamed the attack on Fatah, which said Hamas was responsible for killing the five by mistake.

Senior Fatah member's house attacked

Two members of Palestinian national security forces aligned with Fatah were killed while trying to enter an area of Gaza City where some Hamas men had taken shelter, the sources said.

Hamas gunmen attacked the house of a senior Fatah security official early Wednesday, killing four of Rashid Abu Shabak's bodyguards, the sources said.

Hamas militants attacked a National Security outpost in the Jebalya refugee camp, killing one member of the National Guard, Palestinian security sources said.

In addition, two Palestinians were killed in ongoing gunbattles between the factions in Gaza. One of the dead was a member of Hamas, and the second was a presidential guard loyal to Abbas, the sources said.

On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya issued orders to security forces from Fatah and Hamas, respectively, to withdraw from the streets, Palestinian government spokesman Ghazi Hamad told reporters in Gaza City.

Within hours, factions clashed on the streets of Gaza, and Palestinian leaders proved incapable of restoring order.

Under all three agreements, all checkpoints were required to be dismantled, gunmen from both sides were required to be withdrawn from the streets and any hostages held by either side were to be released.

An Egyptian-brokered cease-fire intended to end the fighting was first broken Monday when shooting resumed between rival militias, and then again Tuesday.

In protest of the ongoing violence in Gaza, Palestinian Interior Minister Hani al-Qawasmi turned in his resignation Monday, and Haniya accepted it, one of his assistants told CNN.

His departure is a blow to the Palestinian unity government, formed earlier this year in an effort to end the deadly factional fighting concentrated in Gaza.

CNN's Ben Wedeman, Nidal Rafa, and Shira Medding in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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