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Monday, March 20, 2006

Palestinian Civil War Watch - Gunmen storm Gaza gov't compound

Further to this morning's events at the Gaza power plant, there's more 'action' going on in Gaza this afternoon....

Dozens of Palestinian gunmen stormed Gaza's government compound Monday, exchanging fire with Palestinian police, and witnesses said four people were wounded.

The takeover by the gunmen, affiliated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, was the fifth such incident in Gaza on Monday. It came a day after the rival Hamas group, which won January parliament elections, presented its new Cabinet to Abbas for approval.

Many Fatah activists fear for their government jobs under Hamas rule. [Isn't that what happens in every 'country' when there's a change in government? Never mind.... CiJ]

Three dozen gunmen firing in the air charged toward the complex, which includes the Foreign and Finance ministries. Moments later, Palestinian police jeeps pulled up to the buildings and exchanged fire with the gunmen.

AP reporter Ibrahim Barzak was in the Foreign Ministry at the time of the attack. Near him, a security guard in the reception area was hit by two stray bullets in the legs. Other employees ran for cover, pressing close to walls or hiding under tables. Bullets smashed windows.

Eventually, police stormed the ministry and began searched for the gunmen, going room to room. Dozens more officers surrounded the buildings. Three Al Aqsa gunmen were eventually arrested.

In total, two gunmen and two security officials were wounded in the exchange of fire.

A short while later, an intense gunbattle erupted at Palestinian police headquarters in Gaza City. Dozens of gunmen fired at the building, known as Arafat Police City, and policemen inside returned fire, witnesses said. No casualties were immediately reported.

Earlier in the day, gunmen briefly took over Gaza's power plant, blocked a road leading to the main Israel-Gaza crossing point and briefly entered a military hospital.

On the road leading to Erez, the three dozen gunmen blocking the road exchanged fire with policemen trying to remove them from the area. Two gunmen and a policeman were wounded in the incident.

The firefight erupted along a road Abbas needs to use to leave the Gaza Strip. Abbas was scheduled to leave Gaza on Monday morning and head to the West Bank city of Ramallah.


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