Gaza militants seize government building, in latest violence directed toward Palestinian Authority

Sunday, September 5th 2004, 9:16 am
By: News On 6

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) _ Palestinian gunmen seized the local government offices in a southern Gaza town for several hours Sunday, demanding that Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority do more to help families left homeless by an Israeli military operation last week, witnesses and militants said.

The militants left the Khan Younis governor's office after receiving ``concrete promises'' that the problem will be solved soon, a gunmen told The Associated Press.

The incident was the latest sign of chaos in the Gaza Strip, which has seen kidnappings, shootings, and other attacks against members of the Palestinian Authority in recent weeks.

Many Palestinians have grown frustrated with the authority, headed by Arafat, accusing government officials of corruption and ineffectiveness. Palestinian factions are also vying for power ahead of a planned Israeli withdrawal from Gaza next year.

In Sunday's incident, about 15 gunmen from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant group with loose ties to Arafat's Fatah movement, seized the governor's office and expelled most of the 22 workers in the building, witnesses said.

Israeli troops destroyed two apartment buildings in Khan Younis last Thursday, leaving 40 families homeless, Palestinian residents said. The army said the buildings had been used for cover by militants and were largely uninhabited.

The gunmen, who declined to identify himself, said in a telephone interview that the militants did not seek anything for themselves, and were only trying to help the displaced families.

The governor, who was not in the office, negotiated with the militants and the standoff was resolved after about four hours, according to witnesses and the gunman.