Palestinians storm EU office in Gaza

Gunmen protest Danish paper's publication of 'blasphemous' cartoons.

gunmen EU office 298 (photo credit: AP)
gunmen EU office 298
(photo credit: AP)
The European Union warned Ridyadh on Monday that if Saudi Arabia persisted in its trade boycott of Denmark, the matter could be referred to the World Trade Organization. Masked gunmen on Monday briefly took over a European Union office to protest a Danish newspaper's publication of cartoons deemed insulting to Islam's Prophet Mohammad, the latest in a wave of violent denunciations of the caricatures across the Islamic world. The gunmen demanded an apology from Denmark and Norway, and said citizens of the two countries would be prevented from entering the Gaza Strip. "We are calling on the citizens of the two countries to take this threat seriously because our cells are ready to implement this all over Gaza," said one of the militants.
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The 12 drawings - published last September by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and republished in a Norwegian paper this month - included an image of the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse. Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet, even respectful ones, out of concern that such images could lead to idolatry. The cartoons have sparked protests, flag burnings and boycotts of Danish products throughout the Muslim world. On Sunday, Palestinian protesters burned Danish flags in two West Bank towns. In the Monday incident, gunmen burst into the EU office, then withdrew several minutes later. A group of about 15 masked men, armed with hand grenades, automatic weapons and anti-tank launchers, remained outside, keeping the offices closed. No shots were fired, and there were no reports of injuries. The gunmen left the building after about half an hour. The Al Aksa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent group linked to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party, claimed responsibility. Al Aksa has been involved in much of the recent chaos plaguing Gaza in recent months. Tensions have heightened since Fatah was trounced by Hamas in legislative elections last week. Tensions have also been rising with the EU, which is considering whether to withhold millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians if Hamas forms the next government. The EU considers Hamas a terrorist group. Jyllands-Posten has refused to apologize for the drawings citing freedom of speech. The drawings were reprinted on Jan. 10 by Norwegian evangelical newspaper Magazinet in the name of defending free expression, renewing Muslim anger.