GAZA CITY ø For the first time since the establishment of the
Palestinian Authority nearly a decade ago, aides to chairman Yasser Arafat
have come under repeated attack.
Palestinian sources said several aides of Arafat as well as senior PA
officials have been threatened by Palestinian insurgents connected to the
ruling Fatah movement. In some cases, officials and aides were prevented
from touring residential areas, blocked from entering their offices or even
"The threats have focused on aides believed to have withheld money meant
for Fatah people," a Palestinian source said. "Nobody will threaten Arafat
directly, so his aides have been the target."
Arafat has come under muted but severe criticism for the huge
celebration to mark Fatah's 39th anniversary on Wednesday. A senior Fatah
source said the demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip cost
more than $3 million.
On Sunday, Ramzi Khoury, director-general of Arafat's office, was
kidnapped by about 25 Fatah insurgents as he was driving through the Gaza
Strip. The sources said Khoury, based in the West Bank city of
Ramallah, was returning from Egypt through the Sinai Peninsula where he had
visited his parents.
Khoury, one of the few Christian aides of Arafat, and Gaza military
governor Mohammed Ali Qidweh were held for several
hours by the Fatah insurgents. They said Khoury was taken to an insurgency
stronghold in Rafah where he was beaten. He was finally released.
The sources said the threats to PA officials come in wake of a reduction
in funds relayed by Arafat to loyalists in the Gaza Strip. They said the PA
chairman has also been blamed for failing to stop Israeli military attacks
on the tunnels that connect Rafah to the Egyptian-controlled Sinai, a
leading source of revenue for Fatah loyalists in the southern Gaza Strip
In early December, Fatah insurgents attacked PA Housing Minister Abdul
Rahman Hamad in Rafah. Hamad had been on a tour of the city to inspect the
damage from an Israeli military operation to search and destroy Palestinian
weapons smuggling tunnels that connect with Egypt.
On late Monday, about 30 Fatah operatives, armed with rifles, stormed
the Khan Yunis municipality in the central Gaza Strip, the third such
incident since October. The gunmen demanded that Arafat recruit them into
the PA security forces. The Fatah operatives left the building after they
said they received a pledge to hire them.