Palestinian officers mutiny against Arafat in Gaza

Special to World
Monday, June 7, 2004

GAZA CITY 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.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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