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U.S. to help Palestinians pay top dollar for insurgents' arms

Monday, June 9, 2003

RAMALLAH The Palestinian Authority is considering a plan to purchase weapons from insurgency groups.

The proposal would seek to reward Fatah insurgents for handing over their weapons to the PA. The sources said many Fatah gunmen would also be offered work in PA security agencies.

Palestinian sources said a plan drafted by PA Security Minister Mohammed Dahlan envisions the procurement of weapons from the ruling Fatah militia as well as Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade to ensure a ceasefire in the more than 31-month-old war. Al Aqsa is controlled by Fatah and is regarded as the umbrella group for the Palestinian insurgency war against Israel, Middle East Newsline reported.

Palestinian sources said the United States and its Western allies have pledged to provide money to buy weapons from insurgency groups. They said Washington and London have provided Dahlan with millions of dollars to buy rifles, rockets, missiles, mines and explosives from a range of insurgency groups.

The sources said Dahlan has offered $6,000 for a rifle. They said this is double the price of the black market.

PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas reassured Palestinian insurgents on Monday that he would not outlaw them. Abbas also urged insurgency groups to resume a dialogue for a ceasefire in the war against Israel.

Earlier, three Palestinian insurgents dressed in Israeli military uniforms infiltrated an Israeli-Palestinian industrial zone at Erez in the northern Gaza Strip and killed four Israeli soldiers. An Israeli military force responded and killed the insurgents. Hours later, a fifth Israeli soldier was killed in the West Bank city of Hebron.

In an unprecedented move, Fatah as well as the Islamic opposition groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad issued a unified communique that claimed responsibility for the attack. The three groups as well as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine had earlier issued a pledge to continue the insurgency war against Israel.

Dahlan has denied that he has offered to buy weapons from Hamas and other insurgency groups. But U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher did not rule out U.S. help to purchase insurgency weapons.

"I'm not in a position to describe how we're going to prevent the terrorist groups from acquiring arms and financing," Boucher said. "But that is something that we will do, and we will support the Palestinian security services as they move to prevent the groups from carrying out violence."

Officials said that starting on June 15, the United States will begin training of officers from the Preventive Security Apparatus, overseen by Dahlan. They said the CIA will launch a training course that will include 300 Palestinian security officers in police and counterterrorism procedures.

On Sunday, the PA appointed Zubeid Hab Rabah, 40, as the new commander of the PSA. Rabah replaces Zuheir Manasra, whose appointment 11 months ago was never accepted by the lion's share of the 3,000-member force.

The reported intention of the United States to provide funds to the PA for weapons collection comes as the United Nations has issued an urgent appeal for $103 million for Palestinian refugees. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees said it requires the money to support its emergency activities in the second half of 2003.

"These include food aid for the poor, shelter for the homeless, medical care for the injured and counseling for children who have been traumatized by violence," a UN statement said.

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