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Abbas Asserts Control in Gaza, but Faces Challenge from Militants

The Palestinian Authority is asserting control over its volatile border with Egypt, to halt the flow of weapons to Islamic militant groups. But the militants are challenging his attempts to restore order.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas announced that the border with Egypt will reopen only as part of an international agreement. Police sealed the frontier on Sunday, after Palestinians tore down the border fence and smuggled in weapons following Israel's pullout from Gaza a week ago.

"We want to do the right job at the right time," Mr. Abbas said. "We want to act as a state and a responsible authority."

But Mr. Abbas is facing a growing challenge from the Islamic militant group Hamas.

In a show of force, about 10,000 members of the Hamas military wing marched through Gaza City, defying a Palestinian Authority ban on parading weapons in public. Among the displayed arsenal were assault rifles, rocket propelled grenades and rockets. Leaders of the group vowed to continue their jihad, or holy war, until Israel is destroyed.

Israel Radio's Arab affairs expert Avi Sacharov says the Palestinian Authority has lost control. "The armed organizations are controlling Gaza Strip, not only the Hamas, but everyone who has a weapon is becoming a kind of a new landlord of Gaza," he said.

That's a serious problem for Mr. Abbas who is seeking international support for a Palestinian state. He wants to revive peace talks with Israel, but the militants who rule the streets want holy war.