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Gaza-Egypt border closed after Palestinian blockade
Updated: 2005-12-30 16:30

Scores of Palestinian policemen, angered by the killing of a fellow officer in a gunfight with a clan in the southern Gaza Strip, blocked access to the main border crossing with Egypt on Friday, prompting its closure.

A spokesman for European Union security monitors stationed at the Rafah terminal said all personnel withdrew to Israel while the Palestinian Authority tried to defuse the standoff.

The Rafah blockade was another sign of growing Gaza anarchy involving militants, gangs and security forces since Israel withdrew from the area in September after 38 years' occupation.

The terminal was opened last month under a deal brokered by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in hope of reviving the Gaza economy and efforts to end five years of fighting with Israel.

The EU monitors were posted at Rafah to assuage Israeli fears that foreign fighters and arms could reach Palestinian militants in Gaza. Under the agreement, the border would be closed if the delegation were withdrawn for any reason.

Witnesses said policemen, backed by gunmen from the dominant Palestinian faction Fatah, prevented vehicles from reaching the border crossing. They announced that the move was a response to Thursday's clash in Rafah, in which a local clansman also died.

A spokesman for the EU monitors said they withdrew to an Israeli terminal on the Gaza boundary as Palestinian officials held talks with the policemen.

"Palestinian police advised us to leave. We left to Kerem Shalom," said the spokesman, Julio de la Guardia. "Rafah crossing is closed because the monitors left."

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