Palestinian gunmen blow up UN club in Gaza City
Updated: 2006-01-01 09:30
Masked gunmen stormed into a club for United Nations workers in Gaza City on
Sunday and blew up the drinking hall in a new sign of spiralling unrest ahead of
a Palestinian election.
It was the first such attack in Gaza on a U.N. target and came against a
backdrop of growing unease among foreigners. Just over one day earlier, a group
freed three British hostages that had been seized to demand foreign pressure on
The bombing was another big blow for President Mahmoud Abbas, just hours
after he had vowed to impose order ahead of a January 25 election and as
militants announced the expiry of a de facto truce with Israel that they had
followed at his behest.
Gunmen burst into the U.N. club, one of the few places that alcohol is served
in conservative Muslim Gaza. It had been closed for the day. The attackers tied
up the security guard and struck him with gun butts.
Then they set explosives in front of the bar, unrolled a detonator cable and
blew up the charges, ripping up the roof and shattering the windows.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The United Nations is generally viewed with sympathy Gaza. Its agency
supporting Palestinian refugees and their descendants, more than half of Gaza's
1.4 million population, is the second biggest employer after the Palestinian
"The club has been there for 50 years," said one U.N. security worker. "This
is the first time anything like this has happened."
Non-essential U.N. staff had already left Gaza because of the danger of
kidnappings and a rash of violent protests and internal clashes.
"These events ... harm our international credibility and strengthen Israel's
pretext to undermine peace and stop withdrawals," Abbas said in a New Year
GROWING CHAOS Chaos has been increasing in the Gaza Strip since the departure
of Israeli troops in September after 38 years of occupation intensified a power
struggle among militant factions, gangs and security forces.
Gaza is widely seen as a testing ground for statehood.
The disorder has worsened in the run-up to a parliamentary election.
Palestinian officials have said that the troubles could force the postponement
of the vote.
Abbas has said he does not want any such delay, but it could actually help
his fractured Fatah movement as it struggles against a challenge from Hamas
Islamic militants seen by many Palestinians as less tainted by corruption.
The kidnappers of the British aid worker and her parents, seized on Wednesday
and released on Friday, had said that they would capture more foreigners if
their demands for pressure on Israel were not met.
Israeli artillery fire killed two Palestinian militants in Gaza on Saturday
after rocket attacks were launched from a "no-go zone" it decreed in the north
of the strip last week to curb such cross-border fire.
Palestinians say the buffer zone is tantamount to re-occupying areas that
Israel gave up last year.
Militant factions said that as of January 1 they had abandoned their
commitment to a "period of calm" that has delivered the longest decrease in
violence since the start of a Palestinian uprising in 2000.