Fatah Gunmen Storm Palestinian Cabinet to Protest Hamas

Palestinian gunmen briefly took over the Cabinet building on Thursday, protesting the refusal of the new Hamas government to meet their demands for perks and promotions.

The gunmen were from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party. Fatah, which dominated Palestinian politics for decades, was defeated by Hamas in January parliament elections.

About 20 Al Aqsa gunmen seized the three-story Cabinet building in Ramallah for about an hour, before members of the security forces persuaded them to leave. Many Al Aqsa gunmen also work in the security forces.

Earlier Thursday, the same group had shut down the Transportation Ministry, forcing employees to leave the building.

Al Aqsa spokesman Kamal Saffaka said the gunmen were upset over the refusal of the Hamas government to meet their demands. Saffaka said the previous government run by Fatah had awarded them hundreds of taxi licenses as perks. Each license is worth thousands of dollars.

The group also demanded that its members win promotions in the security forces.

Hamas had campaigned on a clean government platform. Many Palestinians voted for the Islamic militant group because they were fed up with widespread official corruption and the lawlessness of Fatah-linked gunmen.