Clinton and Sanders in angry debate

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders turned a TV debate into a slugfest as they traded blows about their suitability for the presidency.

The Democratic candidates attacked each other on the economy, climate change, gun control, race issues, Libya and Israel, just days before the crucial New York primary.

Mrs Clinton holds a 13.8-point lead over the Vermont senator in the New York polls and needs a strong win in Tuesday’s primary after losing seven of the last eight contests.

The debate – the first Democratic debate in five weeks – became so heated, the CNN host interrupted to say: “If you’re both screaming at each other, the viewers won’t be able to hear either of you.”

They accused each other of failing to answer questions and clashed over the longevity of Mrs Clinton’s support for the $15 minimum wage, and her support for regime change in Iraq and Libya.

Mr Sanders also criticised Mrs Clinton for supporting fracking overseas and mocked her over her wealth and insistence she stood up to the banks as New York senator from 2001 to 2009.

“Secretary Clinton called them out, oh my goodness they must have been really crushed,” he said.

“Was that before or after you received huge sums of money by giving speaking engagements?”

Mrs Clinton ignored calls to release details of paid speeches to investment banks while Mr Sanders promised to release his 2014 tax returns on Friday.

She accused her leftist rival of waging a “phony attack” on her.

“Senator Sanders did call me unqualified. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, that was a first,” she said.

“Questioning my judgement, well the people of New York voted for me twice to be their senator.”

Mrs Clinton criticised her opponent for failing to detail how he would implement his promises for free college education and universal healthcare, and stressed the depth of her experience, portraying herself as President Barack Obama’s heir.

She also laid into Mr Sanders’ record on gun control, mocking his interview in the New York Daily News saying he did not support a lawsuit brought by families of victims of the 2012 elementary school shooting in Connecticut against the gunmaker whose rifle was used in the attack.

With 247 party delegates up for grabs, New York is a vital battleground for Brooklyn-born Mr Sanders, who must beat Mrs Clinton to keep alive his dream of wresting the nomination.

She holds 1,790 delegates compared to 1,113 for Mr Sanders, putting her on course to scoop the 2,383 needed to secure the party’s ticket for the White House, where she last lived as first lady from 1993 to 2001.