Palestinians Block Traffic, Demand Jobs

Armed Palestinian militants (search) in the West Bank town of Jenin fired into the air and threatened to immediately kill members of the Palestinian parliament Sunday, demanding the Palestinian Authority (search) provide jobs to former prisoners and to relatives of people killed during nearly five years of fighting.

Led by Zakariye Zubeydi, the head of Jenin's branch of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades (search) — a militant group linked to the ruling Fatah movement — about 40 militants gathered in Jenin's main intersection, as several hundred sympathizers encouraged them.

Zubeydi told the crowd he was ready to march on the offices of local parliamentarians.

"In half an hour, if we find any of them in their offices there will be blood and then our only language will be the bullet."

The militants demanded to be provided government jobs. They also demanded jobs for Palestinians recently released from Israeli prisons and for relatives of those killed during the nearly five-year-old intefadeh, or uprising.

The fighting has devastated the Palestinian Authority and weakened its financial stability.

Thousands of Palestinians were thrown into poverty and joblessness as a result of the violence after Israeli military operations and government policy dealt a near death blow to Palestinian Authority institutions — one of the main internal employers — and barred most Palestinians from entering Israel to work.

Before fighting erupted in September 2000, more than 150,000 Palestinians worked in Israel. Today, just a few thousand West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinians have permits to work in Israel.