Palestinian Gunmen Seize Building

An armed Palestinian stands in front of the Palestinian Cabinet building in the West Bank town of Ramallah Thursday April 13, 2006. About 20 Palestinian gunmen from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party, took over the building for about an hour on Thursday, protesting the refusal of the new Hamas government to meet their demands for perks and promotions.(AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)
AP Photo/Nasser Nasser
Palestinian gunmen briefly took over the Cabinet building on Thursday, protesting the refusal of the new Hamas government to meet their demands for perks and promotions.

The gunmen were from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party. Fatah, which dominated Palestinian politics for decades, was defeated by Hamas in January parliament elections.

The previous Fatah-led government gave the gunman jobs and privileges, but Hamas has vowed to clean up promotion, reports CBS News correspondent Robert Berger.

About 20 Al Aqsa gunmen seized the three-story Cabinet building in Ramallah for about an hour, before members of the security forces persuaded them to leave. Many of the gunmen also work in the security forces.

Earlier Thursday, the group had shut down the Transportation Ministry, forcing employees to leave the building.

In other developments:

  • Thousands of Jewish and Christian pilgrims were filling the narrow cobblestone streets of Jerusalem's Old City, for Easter and Passover, reports Berger (audio). Israeli police have beefed up security and issued warnings about possible Palestinian terrorist attacks. However, with a temporary lull in violence, the tourism business is booming.
  • Israeli police were also out in force, as vacationing Israelis fill beaches and hotels during Passover. P{olice say they have intelligence information that Palestinian militants are planning attacks to mar the holiday, but Berger (audio) reports many Israelis say they're not worried.
  • Hamas has started running ads on large Arab television networks and Internet sites asking for donations to "help their Palestinian brothers to stop the intentions of the Zionists to strip the Palestinians of their legitimate rights." The new Palestinian foreign minister also will leave Friday for a tour of five Arab nations to raise funds. Israel has cut off tax payments to the Palestinian Authority, causing a cash shortage for Hamas.
  • In a video posted on the Internet, Al Qaeda's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri said that "eliminating Israel is the duty of every believer."

    An Al Aqsa spokesman said the gunmen were upset over the refusal of the Hamas government to meet their demands. The spokesman, Kamal Saffaka, said that the previous government, run by Fatah, had awarded them hundreds of taxi licenses as perks. Each license is worth thousands of dollars.

    The group also demanded that its members win promotions in the security forces.

    Hamas had campaigned on a clean government platform. Many Palestinians voted for the Islamic militant group because they were fed up with widespread official corruption and the lawlessness of Fatah-linked gunmen.

    In another sign of growing Hamas-Fatah tensions, a group of Fatah-affiliated gunmen briefly entered the Women's Affairs Ministry during a dispute between the Hamas minister and a disgruntled employee. The minister called the police and the gunmen left.