Two Egyptian soldiers killed, dozens injured on Gaza border
Palestinian militants demolish Egypt-Gaza border wall; report: Over 100 Palestinians arrested.
Egyptian police arrested some 100 Palestinians who swarmed across the Gaza Strip border on Wednesday after gunmen bulldozed a path through the barricade lining the frontier, Palestinian witnesses and officials said.
Earlier, two Egyptian soldiers were killed and 37 wounded as thousands of Egyptian security forces were said to have withdrawn from the border with Gaza as they were unable to flow of Palestinians across the border.
Security forces Lt. Sameh el-Antablyan announced the casualties and said the 3,000 Egyptian security troops, who rushed to the border after it was breached, were forced to pull back.
Brigadier Adel Fawzi, director of criminal investigation for North Sinai, said Egyptian forces had no orders to fire and couldn't stop the mob.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on Wednesday voiced his deep concern over the growing mayhem along the Gaza Strip's southern border, warning Egypt that if it does not move to prevent the unchecked stream of Palestinians through the border, Israel will be forced to stop it itself.
Mofaz issued the warning several hours after gunmen from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades commandeered two bulldozers and smashed through a section of the wall on the Gaza-Egypt border to protest the jailing of one of their leaders.
Scores of Palestinians reached Egyptian soil, witnesses said. Most soon returned, including some clutching cheap merchandise.
Meeting U.S., Egyptian and Palestinian officials, Mofaz requested the Egyptians halt the uncontrolled passage of Palestinians and weapons into the Strip through the Rafah crossing.
The gunmen rammed through massive wall as a show of force against the Palestinian Authority. After seizing a bulldozer to cheers from onlookers, gunmen smashed through concrete blocks lining the border near the Palestinian refugee camp of Yibna, witnesses said.
The gunmen fired into the air in celebration, and in the direction of Egypt. An Egyptian armored vehicle was set on fire and at least three Palestinians were reported injured, one seriously when an Egyptian troop carrier crushed him against a wall, witness said.
Witnesses told The Associated Press that some 1,000 Palestinians had rushed into Egypt, and that dozens of Egyptians, mainly women, had passed through the breach into Gaza.
Brig. Adel Fawzi, director of criminal investigation for North Sinai, put the number of Palestinians who made the crossing at 300 and said border police were unable to stop the intruders because they had no orders to shoot.
Israel handed the control over the Gaza-Egypt border to Egypt following its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip last October. The move drew fierce criticism in Israel as it was widely used to smuggle arms and drugs into the Strip.
The militant leader, Alaa al-Hams, was detained on suspicion that he and his followers kidnapped British human rights activist Kate Burton and her parents last week, holding them for two days before releasing them unharmed.
Earlier Wednesday, gunmen from the Al-Aqsa Brigades, a violent offshoot of the ruling Fatah movement, rampaged through the frontier town of Rafah, closing the border crossing and occupying four government buildings.
In a separate incident on Wednesday which further underscored the growing lawlessness in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian gunmen burst into a house in and tried to kidnap the parents of Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an IDF bulldozer in 2003 as she protested the impending demolition of a house in the southern Gaza town, according to their host.
The five gunmen, who also appeared to be affiliated to the ruling Fatah movement, eventually relented after being told who their targets were, according to Samir Nasrallah, in whose house the couple was staying.
Corrie was crushed to death by an IDF bulldozer in 2003 as she tried to stop it from demolishing Nasrallah's house. Her parents, Craig and Cindy, have repeatedly visited Nasrallah since. They left Gaza safely after the incident, Nasrallah said.
Threat to disrupt voteThe Al-Aqsa Brigades also threatened to disrupt voting in the upcoming PA elections if the PA does not release al-Hams.
Fatah-affiliated vigilantes demanding government jobs or trying to get friends out of prison have been responsible for much of the growing anarchy in Gaza, particularly since Israel's pullout in September.
The latest incident began late Tuesday, when Palestinian intelligence detained al-Hams. Following the arrest, his followers fired at the Palestinian security headquarters in the southern town of Rafah where he was being held. Police and gunmen fired in the air, but there were no injuries.