Arafat aides under attack by ruling Fatah

Special to World
Sunday, January 4, 2004

GAZA CITY 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 abducted.

"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 city.

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.

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts
Search Worldwide Web Search Search WorldTrib Archives

See current edition of

Return to World Front Cover