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More Chaos In Palestinian Gaza

Palestinian millitants from Al Aqsa Martyrs' brigades drive a bulldozer through a concrete wall on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt in the town of Rafah Wednesday Jan. 4, 2006. Palestinian militants, angry at the jailing of their leader by the Palestinian police, stole two bulldozers Wednesday and rammed through a wall near the border with Egypt, hours after they blocked the official border crossing and took over government buildings.
AP
Dozens of Palestinian gunmen firing in the air blocked access to the Gaza-Egypt border and took over four government buildings for several hours Wednesday, demanding the release of their leader, who was detained in connection with the kidnapping of a British human rights activist and her parents.

The militants also stole two bulldozers Wednesday and smashed through the border wall between Gaza and Egypt, a Palestinian security official at the border said.

As many as 300 Palestinians crossed into Egypt after the wall was smashed. Brig. Adel Fawzi, director of criminal investigation for North Sinai, said border police were unable to stop the intruders because they had no orders to shoot.

An Egyptian armored vehicle was set on fire and at least three Palestinians were reported injured, one seriously when an Egyptian troop carrier crushed him against a wall, witnesses said.

The gunmen belong to the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent offshoot of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party. Fatah-affiliated vigilantes demanding government jobs or trying to get friends out of prison have been responsible for much of the growing anarchy in Gaza, particularly since Israel's pullout in September.

The takeover of government offices by gunmen is an almost daily occurrence in Gaza, reports CBS News correspondent Robert Berger. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the anarchy, but seems powerless to stop it.

In other developments:

  • Opposition lawmakers from across the political spectrum demanded Wednesday that Israeli police and the attorney general wrap up an investigation into new bribery allegations against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon before of the March 28 elections. Channel 10 TV reports police have evidence that Sharon's family received $3 million in bribes from an Austrian businessman who owns a casino in the West Bank town of Jericho.
  • Israel has decided not to build a wall through an Arab town split between Israel and Lebanon, but instead will increase security there, National Security Adviser Giora Eiland said Wednesday. Israel's Shin Bet internal security service had suggested that Ghajar be divided in half, and that the northernmost residents of the town be moved to the southern half of the community.
  • Israeli soldiers on an arrest raid in the West Bank village of Tarameh killed an armed fugitive, the army said. As soldiers searched a building, the fugitive wearing an armored vest and carrying an assault rifle jumped out from behind a sofa, the army said. He refused orders to drop his weapon and soldiers shot him, the army said.

    The latest Gaza incident began late Tuesday, when Palestinian intelligence arrested Alaa al-Hams, an Al Aqsa militant, on suspicion he and his followers kidnapped human rights activist Kate Burton and her parents for two days last week. The Burtons were among 19 foreigners abducted by Fatah gunmen in Gaza in recent months. All have been freed unharmed.