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Gunmen briefly occupy Gaza ministry

About 50 masked gunmen occupied a Palestinian government office in the Gaza Strip for several hours on Saturday to demand jobs, witnesses and a spokesman for the gunmen said.
/ Source: Reuters

About 50 masked gunmen occupied a Palestinian government office in the Gaza Strip for several hours on Saturday to demand jobs, witnesses and a spokesman for the gunmen said.

The group, members of a political wing of the mainstream Fatah movement, occupied an Interior Ministry office in Deir el-Balah refugee camp, forced everyone to leave and stood guard outside.

The gunmen left the building about three hours later after Palestinian officials agreed to discuss their demands, a spokesman for the gunmen said.

“We have suspended our protest after contacts with Fatah leaders and the interior minister,” said Abu Mahmoud, adding that a meeting would be held on Monday to discuss their demands.

Separately, about 30 gunmen and relatives of a policeman killed in a gunbattle with a Palestinian clan on Thursday stood at a border crossing with Egypt and threatened to bar Palestinian officials from reaching the Rafah terminal, witnesses and security sources said.

A spokesman for European Union monitors at the border crossing said it was operating normally despite the protest, which witnesses said was also joined by militants of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

“There is a checkpoint set up 200 meters outside the outer gate. We understand that it is manned by several police. It is not affecting our work,” Julio de la Guardia, a spokesman for the European Union monitors, told Reuters.

Colleagues of the slain officer blocked the same terminal on Friday, effectively shutting the border crossing for several hours.

The actions, which came just hours after three British hostages were freed after being held two days by other gunmen, was the latest sign of growing lawlessness in the Gaza Strip since Israel quit the coastal territory in September.