Fatah gunmen take up position outside EU Commission's office in Gaza

Palestinian gunmen briefly took up position outside the EU Commission's office Thursday in protest over a newspaper cartoon that has riled the Muslim world. The gunmen, some with ties to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party, demanded apologies from the governments of France, Denmark and Norway after newspapers in these countries printed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the Islamic militant Hamas, which defeated Fatah in last week's Palestinian parliament election, also demanded an apology from European countries. However, Abu Zuhri said foreigners in Gaza must not be harmed as part of the protests.

The drawings first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September, and were later reprinted in several other European papers rallying to defend freedom of expression.

On Thursday, a dozen gunmen with ties to Fatah approached the office of the EU Commission in Gaza. Three jumped on the outer wall and the rest took up position at the entrance. In a statement read by one of the gunmen, the group demanded apologies from the governments of Norway, Denmark and France and called on Palestinians to boycott the products of the three countries.

A leaflet signed by a Fatah militia and the militant Islamic Jihad group said the EU office and churches in Gaza could come under attack and urged all French citizens to leave Gaza. Islamic Jihad leaders in Gaza distanced themselves from the gunmen, reports the AP. I.L.

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