Hamas, Islamic Jihad threaten any effort to seize their arms

Monday, July 14, 2003

GAZA CITY Islamic insurgency groups said the Palestinian Authority has geared up for a crackdown on illegal weapons in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they will resist any PA effort to seize their weapons. They said such a move would end the truce declared with Israel.

"The Palestinian security forces decided to start a campaign aimed to disarm the resistance," a joint statement said on Sunday. "We warn that such an act will make us think seriously of going back on our initiative to halt the military attacks."

PA officials, however, have denied any crackdown on illegal weapons, Middle East Newsline reported. PA Preventive Security Apparatus chief Rashid Abu Shback said the PA does not intend to endanger the truce accord.

Islamic sources said the PA has recruited more than 600 security officers and police for a search mission of weapons in the Gaza Strip. They said the effort is being headed by PA Security Affairs Minister Mohammed Dahlan.

Hamas leader Abdul Aziz Rentisi said the Palestinian truce was based on a pledge by the PA not to collect weapons. He said any such PA operation would constitute "a threat to the truce and national unity."

On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the Cabinet that Palestinian insurgency groups have used the ceasefire to rebuild their infrastructures. Mofaz said Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the ruling Fatah movements have accelerated their production of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank weapons.

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