Palestinians offer security jobs to militants

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

GAZA CITY The Palestinian Authority has offered to open its security agencies to Fatah militants.

Palestinian sources said at least one PA security chief relayed an offer to provide a job to any Fatah militant who pledges to surrender his weapon and abandon the war against Israel. The offer also includes a cash incentive.

So far, the offer has been relayed by General Intelligence chief Col. Tawfiq Tirawi. Tirawi, who heads the GI in the West Bank, is wanted by Israel for allegedly directing attacks against Israeli civilians. At the same time, Tirawi has begun to cooperate with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and is relaying information to Israeli intelligence.

The sources said the PA's offer seeks to focus on insurgents in the Fatah-dominated Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. The brigade began as an umbrella group for all Palestinian factions but is now regarded as the military wing of the ruling Fatah movement, led by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, Middle East Newsline reported.

Fatah has refused to honor the truce announced on Sunday. The movement claimed responsibility for the shooting attack that killed a Bulgarian truck driver in the northern West Bank on Monday near Jenin.

In Israel, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on laborers. On early Tuesday, a Palestinian fired toward Israeli soldiers near the West Bank city of Tulkarm. Israeli troops returned fire and killed the assailant.

The PA plans to extend the offer of employment in the security agencies to fighters from other insurgency groups. The sources said this would include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which has rejected an agreement for a three-month truce with Israel.

Tirawi's plan, the sources said, would bestow the rank of officer to any Fatah insurgent who abandons the war against Israel. They said Tirawi has also promised to provide a "generous" sum of money to those who surrender their weapons and join the security agencies.

In the late 1990s, PA security agencies absorbed scores of Hamas insurgents in an attempt to co-opt the Islamic movement. The Hamas insurgents were organized in a special agency that saw little action.

On Sunday, U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice met Israeli and PA leaders. Israeli officials said Ms. Rice said she opposed the construction of an Israeli security fence along the West Bank. Ms. Rice said such a fence would serve Israeli political interests in negotiations with the Palestinians for a state with permanent borders, set for 2005.

Israeli officials said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Ms. Rice that the government would not lift the siege from Arafat's headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

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