Gunmen storm Gaza government office

Group's leader says takeover was one of 'a series of protest steps.'

fatah gunmen 298 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
fatah gunmen 298 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Dozens of Palestinian gunmen stormed several government offices in Deir el-Balah in the Gaza Strip and briefly took over one of the buildings Saturday, demanding jobs, security officials and witnesses said. The armed men fired in the air, burned tires and blocked the main road of the town during the takeover. It was the latest sign of growing lawlessness in Gaza and the challenge being mounted to the leadership of Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Abu Iyad, the leader of the gunmen, who are affiliated with Abbas' Fatah party, said the takeover was a message to the Fatah leadership and part of "a series of protest steps" against its employment policies. "This is a message to Abu Mazen to take an immediate decision to employ the brothers like they did in other cases. In the case they don't, we will escalate our protests," he said. This was the third such incident recently. On Tuesday, dozens of Fatah activists raided the offices of the Palestinian Authority's central elections commission near Jerusalem, demanding that PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas include candidates from the city in the first ten slots of the Fatah list for next month's parliamentary elections. Earlier, disgruntled Fatah gunmen briefly occupied three government buildings in the town of Bet Lahyia in the northern Gaza Strip to demand jobs. The gunmen, who commandeered the rooftops of a religious court, the Education Ministry, and the governor's office, accused the PA of failing to fulfill its promise to hire them.