Daily Israel Report

Armed Arabs Storm Rafiah Border, EU Observers Flee in Panic

Anarchy in the Palestinian Authority (PA) spread to the Rafiah border crossing, which was closed Friday morning after European Union (EU) observers fled 100 armed PA policemen who formed a blockade.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 12/30/2005, 11:28 AM / Last Update: 12/30/2005, 10:58 AM

The gunmen who stormed the compound belong to the unstable ruling Fatah party of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas. One of their members was killed in a clash Thursday between terrorists.

After the compound was stormed, the EU's observers stationed at the crossing quickly fled the scene in panic while the gunmen prevented vehicles from reaching the crossing. The observers are responsible for monitoring the crossing and enforcing the agreement between Israel and the PA on live camera transmissions of border activity.

The armed men refused to heed demands by PA officials to leave the compound, and the EU workers left out of fear for their lives. "Our monitors are now in the Kerem Shalom military base [in Israel]. When the situation is clear, and these people leave, we will go back to our work," said EU spokesman Julio De La Guardia. He said the PA police advised the observers to leave the crossing.

As part of the deal brokered recently by American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Israel is barred from stationing live observers at the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. Israel has accused the PA of often trying to exploit its control of the border to allow known terrorists to enter into Gaza and smuggle weapons.

During the funeral for the slain policeman, relatives fired at a police station close to the house of Abbas, where the PA chairman's guards returned fire. Abbas was not in the house, but eyewitnesses said some people panicked during the shooting and tried to scale a wall.

The incident was one of several on Thursday which pointed to widespread anarchy.

PA police still are looking for a British human rights activist and her parents who were kidnapped by terrorists in Gaza. Kate Burton, 25, was showing per parents around Rafiah when they were taken hostage by a gang armed with automatic rifles. She has been working as a volunteer for the past year, according to relatives.

Arab human rights groups demanded that the PA stop the kidnappings, which have become rampant. Two teachers were abducted last week by the terrorist group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine but were released several hours later.

"The lack of action by the Authority against those who stood behind previous kidnappings encouraged others to carry out crimes of that kind," the Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights stated.