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Monday, May 9, 2011     GET REAL

Palestinian Authority seeks donations following Hamas-Fatah accord to rehire police officers

LONDON — The Palestinian Authority is seeking financial pledges for a project to return thousands of police officers to duty in the Gaza Strip following the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah.


Officials said the PA has asked the European Union to expand its aid to retrain 14,000 police officers in the Gaza Strip. The officers were retired or dismissed following the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

"They needs lots of help and support for rehabilitation," PA Brig. Gen. Yusef Ozreil said.

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Ozreil, head of the PA police's public relations department, said the officers must be returned to duty as part of a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation accord. The accord called for a joint panel that would restructure PA security forces, which would include Hamas.

"We want to implement the slogan that we have been saying for years that the police are meant to serve the people," Ozreil told a news conference in Brussels on May 6.

The news conference marked a PA effort to recruit Western support for a Fatah-Hamas partnership. Hamas has been listed as a terrorist organization by both the EU and United States.

The EU, through its EUPOL COPPS program, has spent more than $100 million to enhance PA police. The programs over the last six years have included operational and investigative skills as well as human rights training.

"We need more support and efforts coming from the whole world and the international community to help the Palestinians to make this reconciliation go well for the coming years," Ozreil said.

So far, Hamas has insisted that the reconciliation agreement would not include the return of PA forces to the Gaza Strip. Hamas leaders said the accord maintains their rule over the Gaza Strip until at least after elections.

Both the EU and the United States have refused to endorse the Hamas-Fatah agreement. But officials said neither Brussels nor Washington plans to withhold recognition of any Palestinian unity government.

"EUPOL COPPS, in its specific area of responsibility which is police security, still needs to understand what this agreement really mean and what will be the facts on the ground before assessing anything," EUPOL mission chief Henrik Malmquist said.

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