Add to My Yahoo!

changes dateline, combines with eca 054

Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa
Published: Saturday September 30, 2006

Gaza/Amman- Internal unrest in the Gaza Strip once again reached a boiling point Saturday, as Palestinian Authority workers took to the streets demonstrating against unpaid wages a day before the start of the latest round of diplomacy aimed at trying to revive the Mideast peace process. Mere hours after receiving loans and advanced payments for long overdue salaries, hundreds of Palestinian security officers took to the streets of Gaza on Saturday as part of a large demonstration blocking the main roads in the coastal salient.

The demonstrators set fire to wheels and closed several major junctions in the Gaza Strip, firing shots in air and demanding complete salaries they had not received for nearly half a year.

The protests led to several chaotic outbursts throughout the central Gaza Strip. A militant threw a hand grenade at a group of protesting officers after they refused him passage through a junction to Gaza city. Five security members were wounded.

The demonstrations came as United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prepared to embark for the region - travelling first to Jeddah - in a new Mideast tour aimed at aimed at bringing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians back on track.

After Saudi Arabia, Rice is slated to arrive in Israel on Wednesday for meetings with Israelis and Palestinians, and will also be visiting Egypt.

Ahead of Rice's arrival in the region, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak were set to hold talks in Cairo on Sunday.

A statement issued by the Jordanian Royal Court said "the meeting takes place in the course of coordination and consultation on ways of reinvigorating the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians."

Jordanian officials have said that in the wake of Lebanon war, Jordan in coordination with Egypt and Saudi Arabia plans to launch a joint initiative aimed at finding a comprehensive settlement for the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israeli media reports speculated the Egyptian-Jordanian meeting would focus primarily on means of securing the release of an Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas militants in June.

In Rafah city, unpaid employees forced a number of stores to close. The employees threw stones at the car of Culture Minister in the Hamas-led government, Attalla Abu al-Sebah.

The government, hampered by Western sanctions and lack of foreign aid, condemned the attack against Abu al-Sebah.

"Such immoral behaviour by mobs shows the level of defiance by some of those who use violence against the ministers and lawmakers," cabinet spokesman Ghazi Hamad said in a statement.

Hamas also condemned the protests by the security officers, calling them a contribution to the Western and Zionist efforts to topple the Hamas-led government.

In a statement, Hamas called for Interior Minister Said Siam to take legal actions against the "trouble-makers."

© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa