RAMALLAH ø The new interim Palestinian leadership has been
challenged in a move that could hamper plans to succeed the late Yasser
Palestinian sources said PLO Foreign Department chief Farouq Khaddoumi
has challenged the proposed appointment of a four-member team to succeed
Arafat. The sources said Khaddoumi has claimed his right to succeed the PLO
The four-member team has been composed of PLO Executive Council
secretary Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei,
Palestine National Council chairman Salim Zaanoun and Palestinian
Legislative Council speaker Rawhi Fatouh.
On Thursday, a French military hospital reported Arafat's death. PA
secretary-general Tayeb Abdul Rahim confirmed the report and officials said
he would be buried in Ramallah on Nov. 13.
Hours later, Fatah insurgents gathered at Arafat's headquarters in
Ramallah and shouted slogans against Abbas. At the same time, Fatah
loyalists hurled stones at Israeli troops and motorists and burned tires
throughout the West Bank.
In the Gaza Strip, Israeli troops killed three members of a seven-member
Palestinian insurgency squad that tried to storm the Israeli community of
Khaddoumi, whose leadership bid has been supported by Suha Arafat, was
one of the few PLO officials permitted to visit her husband in Paris. After
a week of efforts, Qurei was finally allowed to enter Arafat's hospital room
on Nov. 9.
The sources said Khaddoumi's challenge has been supported by PLO
officials based outside of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They said these
officials have been concerned of major cutbacks in the PLO in wake of
On Thursday, the PLO Executive Council appointed Abbas chairman of the
PLO. Khaddoumi was appointed head of Fatah, the largest movement in the PLO.
At the same time, Fatouh was selected interim PA chairman by the PLC.
Fatah was expected to offer Abbas as a candidate for PA chairman in
elections that could take place in mid-January. Palestinian sources said
they don't expect Abbas to face any serious challenge.
Khaddoumi, who has raised the prospect that Israel poisoned Arafat, has
sent a five-page communique to Fatah members in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
that called for an escalation of the war against Israel. The sources said.
Khaddoumi has urged Fatah to go underground and launch an armed campaign to
expel Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
So far, several Fatah commanders have already endorsed Khaddoumi's call.
The sources said they have attempted to organize an effort against both
Israel as well as the new interim Palestinian leadership.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which have called for a collective leadership,
have also challenged Abbas's authority. Islamic sources said the two
insurgency groups have warned that they would not regard Abbas as they had
Arafat. Over the last decade, Arafat's leadership had never been directly
challenged by the Islamic opposition.