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(photo credit: AP [file])
A day after eight veteran Fatah leaders called for delaying next month's elections, about 200 Palestinian policemen, shooting into the air, briefly took over several government buildings on Monday to protest the Palestinian Authority's failure to impose law and order in Gaza before returning to their positions.
Police have been powerless to halt the wave of kidnappings and other violence that has gripped Gaza since Israel withdrew from the area in September. Last week, an officer was killed in a shootout between two rival families.
No one was immediately hurt in the takeovers in the southern town of Rafah, but the policemen forced employees from the buildings and all work was halted.
The police officers demanded that the Palestinian Authority grant them more authority in facing armed gangs that have taken control of government and elections offices and abducted foreigners in recent months. The police withdrew and returned to their regular positions after about two hours.
"Everything now is under control," said Interior Ministry spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khoussa.
"We understand the public anger and the feelings of the Palestinian policemen regarding the ongoing chaos. But at the same time, we are against any attempt to dictate facts on the ground," he said.
The increasing chaos in Gaza has weakened Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' ruling Fatah Party as it heads to Jan. 25 parliamentary elections _ benefiting the militant Islamic Hamas.