Palestinian police fail to impose order in Gaza

Palestinian police blocked abandoned Jewish settlements and persecuted scavengers in attempt to impose law and order after chaotic celebrations of Israel's pullout from Gaza.

Egyptian guards, in their turn, failed for a second straight day to control a rush across the Gaza-Egypt border, which was a formidable barrier when still patrolled by Israel. With the Israelis gone, Gazans dug under walls and climbed over barriers to get to Egypt where they stocked up on cheap cigarettes, medication and cheese.

The chaos raised new questions about the Palestinian forces' ability to impose order in Gaza.

During a tour of Neve Dekalim, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia implored Palestinians to leave the structures intact, even as people scavenged through debris elsewhere in the settlement.

Israel withdrew the last of its troops from Gaza early Monday, handing control of the coastal strip to the Palestinians. Celebrations frequently spun out of control, with Palestinians setting fire to debris and the few remaining buildings in empty settlements, and thousands of people rushing back and forth across the Egyptian border.

In an attempt to restore order, police early Tuesday banned cars from entering Neve Dekalim, once the largest Gaza settlement, and cordoned off the empty synagogue there, which had been set on fire a day earlier. Club-wielding police chased kids and urged people to stop scavenging through debris left behind by the Israelis.

Despite the police efforts, Neve Dekalim was turned into a buzzing bazaar, with people haggling over bricks, scrap metal and other building materials they had collected. Similar scenes played out in other settlements.

Israel has linked any progress in peace making to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' ability to disarm militant groups. Abbas has called on the groups to lay down their weapons, but refuses to confront them with force, fearing civil war.

In the former settlement of Netzarim, the Islamic Jihad group said it will not give up its arms as long as its struggle against Israel continues.

The chaos after the Israeli pullout raised concerns about the ability of Palestinian security forces' ability to control Gaza, which has experienced growing lawlessness in recent months. Some of the worst unrest was in Rafah, a southern desert town along the Egyptian border, the AP reports.

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