Palestinian gunmen planted bombs at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and stormed government offices, on Wednesday, demanding the release of a fighter suspected of involvement in the last week’s kidnapping of three British citizens.
Witnesses said about 20 gunmen placed explosives, as well as mortar shells and launchers, at the entrance to the Rafah border terminal in an attempt to prevent it from opening to daily traffic on schedule.
The gunmen took positions at a gate leading to the border and demanded that passengers hand over their papers for inspection.
Palestinian officials or passengers with diplomatic passports would be turned away, the gunmen said.
The protest was to demand the release of Ala’ Al-Hams one of the Al Aqsa brigades leaders arrested by Palestinian police on suspicion of being behind last week’s kidnapping of aid worker Kate Burton and her parents during a visit to Rafah.
The three Britons were abducted near the Rafah border crossing and released after three days in captivity.
After the show of force at the frontier crossing, the gunmen moved their protest to government offices in Rafah where they shut one office after the other, including an elections bureau.
"It will remain closed and we will not allow holding parliament elections in Rafah if Ala is not released", said one of the gunmen who called himself Abu Yazan.
On Tuesday night, gunmen stormed an office responsible for security agencies in Rafah and later detonated a bomb under the Gaza-Egypt border fence to press for their leader’s release.
The Rafah crossing is the first to be policed by the Palestinians, along with European Union monitors and Egyptian security forces. It was opened in November under a U.S.-brokered deal following the completion of Israel’s pullout from Gaza in September.