GAZA CITY ø Palestinian security officers have staged what appeared
to be their first mutiny in the Gaza Strip.
More than 130 security officers stormed a position of the praetorian
guard of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in Dir Al Balah on May
31 in what they termed was a protest against corruption in PA
security forces. The officers, members of the National Forces, demanded that
Arafat launch reforms in the security forces.
So far, Palestinian sources said, the National Forces unit captured a
position of Arafat's Force 17 in Dir Al Balah in the central Gaza Strip and
expelled Arafat loyalists. The National Forces unit is the biggest of the PA
security forces, with more than 14,000 members.
The mutineers have demanded the dismissal of PA security chief Maj. Gen.
Abdul Razik Al Majaydeh. The National Forces officers allege that Al
Majaydeh has siphoned off money and supplies meant for PA officers and has
refused to command PA forces to battle Israeli military operations in the
Gaza Strip. They said PA forces have been struck by a severe shortage in
ammunition and supplies.
For his part, Al Majaydeh has refused to meet with the mutineers. He has
ordered the withholding of salaries of four of the leaders of the mutineers.
National Forces members receive a salary of about 1,000 Israeli shekels,
or $220, per month. Palestinian sources said the officers also receive
bonuses for carrying out operations against Israeli soldiers and civilians
in the Gaza Strip.
The mutineers have threatened to widen the revolt in the Gaza Strip.
They said additional PA security units are waiting for the signal to take
over more Force 17 facilities.
"The refusal of Maj. Gen. Al Mayadeh to sit or listen to our demands
will lead to chaos that we don't want," Maj. Ahmed Abu Subeitan, a spokesman
for the mutineers, said.
Abu Subeitan stressed that the mutineers do not want to replace Arafat
as commander of PA security forces. But he said the National Forces revolt
seeks to ensure that Arafat ends what the spokesman termed the corruption
among commanders and their mistreatment of their troops.
The mutineers relayed a letter to Arafat with nine demands. The demands
included the dismissal of commanders, said to have demonstrated
incompetence. The mutineers said many of the senior PA commanders have sent
their families abroad and rarely reported to work.
In early May, about 10 National Forces soldiers and officers attacked
Lt. Col. Amr Ashour, head of the unit's southern command. Ashour's vehicle
and weapon were seized during his visit to a military outpost.
Arafat has not publicly responded to the demands of the mutineers. Egypt
has pressed Arafat for an immediate restructuring of PA security forces and
a reduced role for the PA chairman.