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Palestinian Authority weighs plan to respond to suicide bombing

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Thursday, August 21, 2003

GAZA CITY The Palestinian Authority has drafted a plan for an imminent crackdown on Islamic insurgency groups.

PA sources said the plan, meant to respond to the Hamas suicide bombing in Jerusalem on Tuesday, was drafted by Security Affairs Minister Mohammed Dahlan and approved by Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. But the sources said the plan would not be launched until it is approved by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Under the proposal, PA police and security officers under the responsibility of the Interior Ministry would raid dozens of strongholds of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. The sources said the forces would make arrests, seize weapons and ban media interviews with insurgency leaders. "At this point, the plan calls for a brief but intensive effort against Hamas and Jihad," a PA source said. "The plan has been submitted to the United States, which we presume has shown it to Israel."

[On Thursday, Israel's military launched what was termed a limited campaign in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Middle East Newsline reported. The operations included raids of the West Bank cities of Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarm and an Israeli helicopter missile attack on what was described as a senior Hamas official, Ismail Abu Shanab, in Gaza City. At least four Palestinian were killed and several others were injured in the operations. It was not clear whether Abu Shanab was one of the casualties.]

On Thursday, Dahlan's spokesman Elias Zananiri said Arafat has approved the security crackdown. But other PA officials said Arafat's decision was in principle only and that the PA chairman insisted on approving every operation carried out by PA forces.

The draft is the first that envisions a widespread crackdown on Islamic insurgency groups in a move that reflects appeals by Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. The sources said that over the last five months of Abbas's rule PA security forces were limited to occasional raids and interrogations of insurgency strongholds and suspects.

"Powell asked Abbas to take deterrent measures against those responsible for the central Jerusalem bus attack," PA Information Minister Nabil Amr said.

The proposed PA crackdown would not include the West Bank, the sources said. They said Dahlan does not command the loyalty of a significant number of police or security forces in the West Bank.

Moreover, the PA plan does not call for the confiscation of weapons from Hamas and Jihad, the sources said. Instead, the plan discusses supervision of weapons by insurgency groups.

The sources said the proposed crackdown would rely on PA police and the Preventive Security Apparatus, both of which are directly under Dahlan's command. The 10 security agencies under Arafat's command would not be directly involved in the operation.

Earlier, Abbas convened his Cabinet to discuss a response to the Jerusalem bus bombing in which 19 Israelis were killed. A Cabinet statement said the ministers approved Dahlan's plan for a "continued operation against Hamas and Jihad," but linked this to Israeli military restraint.

"The Palestinian security services will take all necessary measures in order to preserve the Palestinian national interests," PA minister Yasser Abbed Rabbo said.

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