Palestinians to kill 'death squad' that targeted anti-Arafat groups

Monday, November 29, 2004

GAZA CITY The Palestinian Authority has decided to dismantle a security unit established to battle the Islamic opposition.

PA officials said Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei has ordered the dismantling of the so-called "Death Squad."

The squad, part of the Preventive Security Apparatus, was said to have operated in the Gaza Strip. During its seven years of operations, the PSA squad, officially termed the Gaza Security and Protection Unit, was never acknowledged by the PA.

They said the squad used threats and violence against enemies of the former Yasser Arafat regime.

The squad, commanded by Lt. Col. Nabil Tanous, was established to target Palestinian dissidents, particularly Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Officials said the squad was established in the late 1990s to direct the crackdown on Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Officials said the unit contained 70 officers.

"The security and protection department has become a source of accusation and doubts," PSA chief Brig. Gen. Rashid Abu Shback said. "As a preventive security service we are keen to defend the rights of the citizen."

[On Monday, Hamas gunners renewed their firing of Kassam-class short-range missiles toward Israel in the first such attack in 18 days. Israeli authorities said two Kassam missiles fell into Israel's western Negev desert.]

Tanous was said to have come under threat from Islamic opposition forces in wake of the death of Arafat on Nov. 11. Officials said the Death Squad would be dismantled and its members would serve in other parts of the PSA.

"We have held a number of reconciliatory meetings in the Fatah movement to create an atmosphere that will allow us to deal with problems which have emerged in recent years," Abu Shbak said.

In Cairo, PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas again called for the collection of unlicensed weapons in the PA areas. At the same time, PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said the war against Israel would continue until what he termed the end of the occupation.

"We want to control the Palestinian security arena so that we end the phenomenon of weapons being carried around everywhere," Abbas said. "We want a single authority, a single government and a single legitimate Palestinian armed force on the Palestinian sphere."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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