Palestinian infighting on West Bank turns violent

Saturday, July 24, 2004

RAMALLAH The Fatah revolt in the West Bank is heating up.

Over the last day, a former Palestinian Authority minister was shot and injured and a PA official was abducted in what appeared to be the start of tit-for-tat attacks in the West Bank. Palestinian sources said PA Chairman Yasser Arafat has ordered security agents to quell Fatah unrest and intimidate suspected leaders.

"There has been attempt to bring the Fatah revolt into the West Bank," a PA official said. "This is Arafat's red line and he will not allow this to happen."

In Nablus, the deputy governor of Nablus, Fadel As-Shuli, was abducted by Fatah dissidents. After several hours, the PA official was released unharmed, Middle East Newsline reported.

In Ramallah, Palestinian legislator Nabil Amr was shot outside his home on July 20 and the following day he traveled to Jordan for treatment. Amr, a former information minister and a critic of Arafat, termed the attack an assassination attempt.

"If the reason for this attempt on my life was to force me to keep silent, I want everyone to know that I will continue to say what I believe," Amr said.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has decided to pull out much of its refugee relief staff out of the Gaza Strip amid rising unrest.

Palestinian sources said the UN Refugee Works Agency has begun to withdraw non-essential staffers from refugee camps and other facilities in the Gaza Strip. The sources said the agency decision stemmed from threats that foreign staffers could be vulnerable to abductions amid the revolt within the ruling Fatah movement.

A UN spokesman said 20 non-essential staffers were being withdrawn from the Gaza Strip. The spokesman cited security threats as well as difficulties in crossing the Israeli terminal at Erez that separates Israel from the northern Gaza Strip.

On July 16, five French nationals who worked in an international development project in the Bureij refugee camp were abducted by Fatah insurgents. The French nationals were captured as they were meeting in the Red Crescent Society in Bureij.

[On Thursday, Israeli troops in the West Bank captured a Palestinian would-be suicide bomber as well as a bomb that weighed 20 kilograms. Military sources said the attack was planned by Fatah insurgents in Nablus and targeted the Israeli city of Haifa.]

Palestinian sources said Amr was struck by seven rounds from an M-16 rifle. He had just completed an interview with the Cairo-based Orbit satellite TV station.

PA Communications Minister Azzam Ahmad said the attack on Amr, 57, was meant to sow chaos in the West Bank in wake of the unrest in the Gaza Strip. Ahmad also participated in the Orbit interview with Amr.

The attack on Amr dominated the debate in the Palestinian Legislative Council on Wednesday. Many legislators suggested that Arafat or one of his aides ordered the attack.

"I think that the person responsible is not a simple individual, rather a big and powerful man within Fatah," PLC member Azmi Shueibi said.

On Thursday, Fatah dissidents have scheduled huge protests against Arafat's policy throughout the Gaza Strip. The protests were aimed to call for the dismissal of Arafat's nephew, Mussa, as head of PA security forces in the region.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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