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Gaza Militants Torch Palestinian Police Station - 2004-07-24

Armed Palestinians, demanding reform of the security forces, on Saturday destroyed one police building in the Gaza Strip, and seized control of a government office block. The violence is the latest in a week of protests against Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's administration. Masked Palestinians, wielding rifles, set fire to, and destroyed a Palestinian police station south of Gaza City on Saturday.

The militants claimed they were protesting Mr. Arafat's refusal to reform his security forces.

No one was injured in the blaze, but the fire spread to a nearby town council building.

The attack came just hours after about 20 members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the armed wing of Mr. Arafat's Fatah faction, took control of a government office block in Khan Younis, in the southern part of Gaza.

The militants demanded that Mr. Arafat dismiss his cousin, Musa Arafat, a senior commander from the Palestinian security forces.

A spokesman for the group said Mr. Arafat must fire Musa and, "remove all the symbols of corruption in the state."

The Palestinian president appointed Musa Arafat as overall head of the security forces last week, sparking violent protests.

In the face of the public pressure, Mr. Arafat canceled the appointment, but his decision to keep Musa in a senior post helped fuel the latest unrest.

The militants eventually agreed to leave the building, saying Mr. Arafat had promised to reinstate some of their comrades, who had been forced out of the security forces.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Cabinet minister for negotiations, Saeb Erekat, says the Palestinian territories are at risk of sliding into chaos.

He was speaking after visiting Palestinian lawmaker Nabil Amr in a hospital in Jordan.

Mr. Amr, a champion of political reform, was shot in his home in the West Bank City of Ramallah last week, shortly after giving a television interview criticizing Mr. Arafat.