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Sunday, January 7, 2007

[Palestinian] Infighting spreads to West Bank

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2007/01/palestinian-infighting-spreads-to-west.html

Infighting spreads to West Bank
Chaos on Gaza streets expands to West Bank with shootings in Jenin,
kidnappings in Nablus, Ramallah. PA security official: Hamas hoarding
firearms in preparation for standoff with Fatah
Ali Waked YNET Published: 01.07.07, 01:53
www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3349101,00.html

West Bank cities are bracing themselves for the deadly turmoil restricted
until recently to Gaza as violent infighting between Fatah and Hamas spills
over into the West Bank.

Reports of heavy gunbattles between Hamas and Fatah Jenin poured in on
Saturday night while in Gaza three members of a Hamas-affiliated family were
killed by Fatah gunmen. Earlier in the day the first signs of West Bank
infighting emerged as gunmen abducted Nablus deputy mayor Mahdi al-Khamdali
at gunpoint. Meanwhile in Ramallah gunmen, reportedly from Fatah, stormed
the offices of the Hamas-controlled Ministry of the Interior, shot the
office manager in his legs and abducted him.

A Palestinian Authority security official told Ynet Saturday night that
there is a grave chance that the internal power-struggle may take root in
the West Bank. According to the official Hamas forces are preparing their
ranks and stockpiling weapons.

The source estimated however that should the situation in the West Bank come
to an all-out battle between the warring factions Fatah would have the upper
hand in the region. "But it is not a simple matter at all," said the source,
"we've been seeing unprecendented 'import' efforts by Hamas over the past
several months in terms of arms." The official said that the rise in demand
for firearms by Hamas has already affected the arms-trade in the area, as
prices skyrocket to almost double their original value.

"An M-16 (assault rifle) that was once worth about 6,000 Jordanian dinars
(USD 8,450) is now bought for 10,000 dinars (USD 14,200), this signals that
the fight against them (Hamas) will not be easy," said the PA official.

The official also said that Fatah has been recruiting supporters, quietly
strengthening its military wing in the West Bank; however he said "Hamas'
stronghold is expected to be in the northern West Bank, in Nablus and Jenin.
The question we must ask however is will the whole of the Fatah movement
rally for such a confrontation?"

Abbas to reform security forces

Fatah is readying itself too. Hussein al-Sheik, a senior member of the
organization in the West Bank said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
will announce a thorough reform plan and personnel changes for Palestinian
security forces. Al-Sheik noted that the changes are meant to help battle
the anarchy rampant throughout much of the PA, particularly in Gaza.

According to the security official Abbas is determined to implement his
decision to disperse the Hamas paramilitary militia in the Gaza Strip after
declaring it illegal.

In light of continued security chaos and assassinations that got to a number
of our fighters ... And in light of the failure of existing agencies and
security apparatuses in imposing law and order and protecting the security
of the citizens, President Mahmoud Abbas decided to reshuffle the security
forces and its leadership and to consider the (Hamas) executive force,
officers and members, illegal and outside the law," Abbas' office said in a
statement.

Palestinian Prime Minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was quick to
reject Abbas' call to dismantle his security force. A spokesman for the
force, Islam Shahawan, said in response that the force will double its
numbers to 12,000 fighters and urged citizens to join up.

Egypt, Jordan and the United States are trying to aid troops loyal to Abbas,
shipping them guns and ammunition, Israel i officials were briefed in
advance.

Should efforts to form a unity government fall through and infighting
between Hamas and Fatah picks up steam Abbas may official call for early
elections in the Palestinian Authority, as he has already hinted he might
resort to such measures in a speech last month.


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