In an act of protest, a group of Palestinian policemen shut down the volatile border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. It is seen as a sign of growing lawlessness ahead of Palestinian elections next month.

About 100 Palestinian policemen, angry over the killing of a fellow officer, stormed into the Rafah border crossing in Gaza, firing shots in the air, and forcing European monitors to briefly close the terminal and flee to Israel. The officer was killed in a clash between police and a Gaza clan.

The Rafah incident is the latest in a wave of armed kidnappings and takeovers of government buildings that underscore the lawlessness in Gaza since Israel pulled out in September.

Gaza is seen as a test case for Palestinian statehood, so there is growing frustration among Palestinians over the inability of their leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to restore law and order. "I didn't see, let's say, any specific measures, which has been taken by Mr. Abbas to crack down on such kind of chaos," said Palestinian human rights activist Bassam Eid.

The chaos includes the kidnapping of a British human rights activist and her parents, who were seized by Palestinian gunmen on Wednesday. That's an embarrassment for President Abbas, and Mr. Eid says it won't help him in landmark parliamentary elections on January 25. "I think that most of the Palestinians now become much more hopeless, much more pessimistic towards the government, (and) towards the Palestinian president," he said.

That could give a further boost to the Islamic militant group, Hamas, which is posing a serious challenge to Mr. Abbas' Fatah party in the elections. A strong showing by Hamas would be a blow to the peace process, because the group seeks the destruction of Israel.