RAMALLAH ø 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
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
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 ø 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 ø 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.