Egyptian border police fired warning shots late Wednesday to prevent Palestinians from cutting through a fence that divides Egypt from the Gaza Strip. The incident occurred after a day of growing anarchy and violence in the southern Gaza Strip.
A mob of Palestinians rushed the border fence and tried to cross into Egypt after Palestinian militants used two stolen bulldozers to smash through concrete barriers at the Rafah border crossing.
Earlier, the militants placed explosives at the border crossing and occupied several Palestinian government buildings in Rafah. The gunmen, who are affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade are seeking the release of one of their leaders who has been linked to the kidnapping of British aid worker Kate Burton and her parents last week. The three hostages were freed unharmed after being held for several days.
Meanwhile, gunmen broke into a house in Rafah and attempted to kidnap the parents of Rachel Corrie a young U.S. woman who was killed in 2003 when she tried to stop an Israeli bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian house in Rafah. Ms. Corrie's parents are frequent visitors to Rafah and the gunmen left after being told who they were.
Mohammed Dawwas, an independent Palestinian journalist working in Gaza says the growing violence and chaos is especially acute in the Rafah area because Palestinian security officials have less control there than elsewhere in the Gaza Strip.
"The southern Gaza Strip is different from the northern or the middle area of the Gaza Strip. This area is close to the Egyptian border and there are more guns in that area than anywhere else in the whole Gaza Strip," he said.
Much of the growing violence in Gaza is being blamed on militants who belong to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a violent militia affiliated with the ruling Fatah Party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The group is cited by the State Department as a terrorist organization.
Mr. Abbas has condemned the violence, but Palestinian security officials say they are unable to contain it. In recent days senior Palestinian security officials have said it will be virtually impossible to provide security throughout much of the Gaza Strip for scheduled Palestinian legislative elections on January 25.