RAMALLAH ø Insurgents loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser
Arafat have threatened to break away from the ruling Fatah movement unless
they receive their salaries.
Fatah insurgents said that they have not been paid for up to two months.
They said the result has been a drop in insurgency operations against
Insurgents said numerous appeals have been relayed to Arafat and his
aides, but they have not sent salaries for April and May. Arafat has pleaded
poverty and urged Fatah insurgents to turn to PA Finance Minister Salam
"The Palestinian leadership now sees Al Aqsa as an obstacle to any
political breakthrough," Palestinian Legislative Council member Hatem Abdul
Kader said. "Many Fatah leaders are in fact trying to get rid of the group."
Most Fatah insurgents, including those in the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades,
had been on the payroll of the PA security agencies. But over the last few
months, Fayyad has managed to end payment to hundreds of fictitious
employees of the security services.
Arafat has urged Fatah insurgents to rejoin the PA security forces, but
the gunmen termed the PA chairman's offer a ploy to end the Al Aqsa
Brigades. Under the Egyptian reform plan, Arafat would no longer have direct
over the security agencies.
Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Omar Suleiman was expected to arrive in
Ramallah next week to meet Arafat. PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said the
Fatah Central Council would establish a panel to consider the future of Al
Al Aqsa, created in late 2000, was believed to have more than 400
members in the West Bank and about 5,000 in the Gaza Strip. Over the last
year, about 100 Fatah insurgents aligned with Al Aqsa in Jenin and Nablus
have been on the payroll of Iran and Hizbullah.
"If merging the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades with the Palestinian Authority
aims at silencing the voice of Palestinian truth and honor, then the blood
of our martyrs calls upon us and our responsibility," Al Aqsa said in a
Several Al Aqsa leaders have raised the prospect of breaking off from
Fatah. They did not suggest an alternative financial source, but several
Fatah insurgents said one option was to acquire Hizbullah sponsorship.
Hizbullah has financed Al Aqsa in the northern West Bank.
Zakaria Zbeidi, Al Aqsa's commander in Jenin, said his force was ready
to end the Palestinian insurgency against Israel in the northern West Bank
after a military withdrawal. Zbeidi, who Palestinian sources said escaped a
recent Israeli assassination attempt, said he was asked to bring his men
into the Palestinian security forces.
"Yes, we're willing to do that," Zbeidi said. "But first Israel has to
withdraw from Jenin."