Palestinian Authority seals 3 of 12 tunnels from Egypt

Sunday, August 24, 2003

GAZA CITY The Palestinian Authority has sealed three tunnels from Egypt used to smuggle weapons to insurgency groups.

The PA said tunnels connecting the Palestinian- and Egyptian-controlled sections in Rafah were sealed Saturday. It was the first time PA security forces took such a move.

Palestinian security sources said at least 12 tunnels operate in Rafah and are used for smuggling weapons, drugs and insurgents. The smuggling trade has been operated by the Samhadana family that is loyal to PA Chairman Yasser Arafat.

PA officials also reported the arrest of 13 suspected insurgents in Rafah, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the arrests encountered opposition from the familes of the suspects.

PA security forces were also said to have foiled a Hamas missile attack over the weekend from the Gaza Strip. On Sunday, however, two Hamas Kassam-class missiles landed in Israel. One of the missiles fell south of the Israeli city of Ashkelon.

On Saturday, the Fatah Executive Committee appointed a Palestinian general to become the next PA interior minister. Nasser Yusef, a senior commander of the PA police in the Gaza Strip in the 1990s, was named to fill in the portfolio now entrusted to Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Yusef was part of the PA crackdown on Hamas in 1996.

Palestinian sources said Abbas and Security Affairs Minister Dahlan have not responded to the Fatah decision. The sources said under the arrangement Yusef would obtain much of the authority over security agencies now controlled by Arafat. The Fatah decision would have to be approved by the PLO Executive Committee as well as Abbas himself, the sources said.

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