Arafat orders his security on alert after Yassin hit

Monday, March 22, 2004

RAMALLAH Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat believes Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin was a message to the Fatah chief that he could be next.

Arafat ordered his security forces to be on alert in wake of the killing of Yassin, Palestinian sources said. They said Arafat appeared concerned that Yassin's death was part of a new Israeli policy that ended the immunity enjoyed by the PA chairman.

Meanwhile, Arafat may be moving to fill the void in Hamas leadership left by the assassination.

PA radio and television reported the assassination of Yassin and the threats of Hamas retaliation, Middle East Newsline reported. But PA television refrained from showing footage of Yassin and other casualties after the attack. Gulf-owned satellite channels, such as Al Arabiya and A-Jazeera, broadcast such footage.

Palestinian sources said Arafat might seek to fill the vacuum left by Yassin by offering to increase cooperation with Hamas. With the exception of Yassin, most senior Hamas commanders have dismissed Arafat as a force in Palestinian society.

The sources said Arafat has ordered his commanders to prepare for large-scale Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. They said Arafat was placed in a special "security room" to avoid being a target of Israeli snipers.

"We believe the president is a target," an Arafat aide said.

The sources said PA commanders were told to allow Hamas and other insurgency groups to organize protests and activities to prevent any Israeli invasion. Arafat and Yassin had known each other since the 1960s and over the last decade engaged in regular consultations. The sources said Arafat found Yassin to be the most cooperative among Hamas leaders.

Earlier, the Palestinian High Court unfroze the accounts of nine Hamas-aligned charities said to have funded insurgency groups. In August 2003, the PA froze 39 accounts including those of Al Jamiya Al Islamiya, A-Salah, Islamic Young Women's Association, Social Care Committee, Islamic Charity for Zakat and Al Aqsa Charity Association under pressure from the United States. Sunday's decision by the court requires approval by Arafat, who in the past has ignored the High Court.

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