RAFAH, Gaza Strip – Hundreds of angry Palestinians streamed into Egypt on Wednesday after militants with stolen bulldozers broke through a border wall, and two Egyptian troops were killed and 30 were wounded by gunfire in the rampage.
About 3,000 Egyptian Interior Ministry troops who initially had no orders to fire swarmed the border but were forced to withdraw about a half-mile, said security forces Lt. Sameh el-Antablyan, who announced the casualties.
Gen. Essam el-Sheikh said Egyptian forces later began firing back.
The scene was one of utter chaos. An Egyptian armored vehicle was burning and hundreds of Palestinians could be seen crouched in farm fields just inside Egypt.
The militants' rampage through the southern Gaza town of Rafah underscored the growing lawlessness in Palestinian towns, especially in Gaza, and represented the most brazen challenge to the authority of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Earlier, the Egyptian troops fired tear gas and shot into the air. An Egyptian armored vehicle was set ablaze and a witness said three Palestinians were injured — one seriously, when a troop carrier crushed him against a wall.
Police imposed a curfew on the Egyptian side, all shops were closed, and authorities cut electricity, plunging the scene in near total darkness.
Abbas, who has condemned the chaos, has been unable to impose order, and his failure to keep the gunmen in check is expected to harm Fatah's prospects in Jan. 25 parliament elections.