Palestinian security forces on alert, leaves canceled

Friday, October 29, 2004

RAMALLAH The Palestinian Authority has placed its more than 40,000 security troops on alert as PA Chairman Yasser Arafat left the West Bank for France.

PA officials said officers of all 13 security agencies were summoned to report to duty in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They said the PA canceled all leave and ordered commanders to deploy troops at outposts and around vital facilities, Middle East Newsline reported.

"All of the security forces have been on alert," an official said.

The alert was declared as Arafat, 75, was flown to a military hospital in France. Arafat has been in critical condition and the French hospital was said to specialize in internal medicine and cancer treatment.

Officials said Arafat, suspected of having intestinal cancer, was flown by Jordanian military helicopter from Ramallah on Friday to the Jordanian capital of Amman. From there, Arafat was placed on a French jet for a flight to Paris. Arafat was accompanied by former PA security chief Mohammed Dahlan, spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh.

By Friday, PA security forces were seen around government buildings in West Bank and Gaza Strip cities. The presence was said to have been greatest in Ramallah where the new Palestinian leadership would be based.

Palestinian sources said that on Oct. 30, the new emergency PA leadership was scheduled to convene in Ramallah. The three-member leadership council was identified as Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, his predecessor, Mahmoud Abbas and Palestine National Council chairman Salim Zaanoun.

Officials said senior PA officials and members of the ruling Fatah movement were summoned to return to Ramallah. They said the order was meant to prevent a power vacuum in the aftermath of Arafat's departure.

"We are preparing ourselves for everything possible," Communications Minister Azzam Ahmed said.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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