Struggle To Control Gaza

An Egyptian border guard and Palestinian police together try to prevent Palestinians from crossing between the Rafah Refugee Camp, in the southern Gaza Strip and Egypt, Wednesday Sept. 14, 2005.
AP
Palestinian gunrunners smuggled hundreds of assault rifles and pistols into Gaza across the wide-open border with Egypt, dealers and border officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The influx confirmed Israeli fears about giving up border control and could further destabilize already chaotic Gaza.

Scores of Palestinians also crossed from Gaza into Egypt Wednesday evening before Egyptian security forces closed the border in an attempt to restore order.

The smuggling came as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas tried to impose order following the Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza earlier in the week. Militant groups on Wednesday scoffed at a new demand by the Palestinian Authority that they disband after parliament elections in January, and said they would not surrender their weapons.

Palestinians have looted dozens of greenhouses in former Gaza settlements, stealing hoses, electrical cables and plastic sheeting, reports CBS News Correspondent Robert Berger. American Jewish donors bought the greenhouses from Israeli farmers for $14 million, with the aim of providing jobs and boosting the Palestinian economy.

Elsewhere in Gaza, a Hamas militant disrupted a celebratory rally at an abandoned Jewish settlement, grabbing a microphone from a rap singer who was led away by police firing into the air. No one was injured.

Israel voiced sharp concern about the continued chaos along the Egypt-Gaza border in the wake of its pullout, sending message to the U.S., Egypt and the Palestinians. "We will not put up with this," Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Wednesday, adding he hopes Egypt will take control soon.

Egypt had assured Israel that it would prevent weapons smuggling once its troops take over from Israeli soldiers along the Gaza frontier.

Egypt and the Palestinian Authority pledged they would seal the border by Wednesday evening, after thousands had crossed unhindered in both directions since Monday. Around 8 p.m. Wednesday, about two hours after the initial deadline for closing the border, an Egyptian officer bellowed into a bullhorn telling Palestinians to stop entering Egypt and prepare to return to Gaza. Police guarded a barbed wire fence on the Egyptian side of the border, blocking hundreds of people on either side of the border as well as inside a buffer area in between.