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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Egypt transfers arms to Fatah, with Israel's approval

Last update - 12:12 28/12/2006   

Egypt transfers arms to Fatah, with Israel's approval
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents

Egypt transfered a large quantity of arms and ammunition to Palestinian Authority security organizations in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, with Israel's approval.
The Palestinian security forces are largely allied to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and draw their numbers from his Fatah movement.
The move was carried out in an effort to bolster Fatah affiliated groups, following recent clashes with paramilitary organizations belonging to the ruling Hamas movement.
Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh on Thursday denied that the transfer had occurred. "The talk about the president's security services receiving
arms is unfounded and not true at all," he said.
However, a decision on the matter had apparently been made in a Saturday meeting between Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The shipment included 2,000 AK-47 rifles, 20,000 magazines and two million rounds of ammunition. The arms and ammunition were transfered from Egypt to Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing, in coordination with the Israel Defense Force and with the government's authorization.
The four trucks carrying the weapons were accompanied by Military Police, and crossed into the Gaza Strip through the Karni crossing, where PA security personnel received the shipment.
Senior members of various Fatah affiliated groups in the Gaza Strip have complained of their inferior firepower when confronted by Hamas forces.
One of the main reasons they point to for their inability to counter Hamas is the fact that the radical Islamic organization controls most of the smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip through tunnels running from Sinai to Rafah in the South.
The issue of reinforcing the Fatah forces was the subject of discussions among Israeli, Egyptian and American officials.
During the meeting, Abbas also promised to deploy men from his Presidential Guard along the Philadelphi Route to prevent smuggling, and also in the northern Gaza Strip, to prevent the targetting of Israeli towns with Qassam rockets.
Abbas traveled to Egypt Wednesday for a meeting with President Hosni Mubarak. At the end of their meeting, Abbas said that Israel has not rejected the possibility of establishing a "back channel" - closed to the media, but not secret - through which negotiations could be held toward a permanent settlement.
Abbas said that this matter was raised in his meeting with Olmert and that the Israeli leader had promised to evaluate his proposal.
The Palestinian leader added that the Americans have also not rejected this option.
The proposal for a back channel involves the participation of Quartet representatives in the talks, and Abbas said that the visit of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region in January will "be the right time to manifest this idea and discuss it seriously."
Palestinian sources told Haaretz on Wednesday that Abbas is trying to revive the idea of negotiations for a permanent settlement, because he is wary of an initiative to set up a Palestinian state with interim borders.
The same sources said that the Palestinian leadership is closely following the proposal put forth by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, which is backed by the U.S. and which Hamas may be willing to accept in return for a complete cease-fire for a five-year period.

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