Al-Aqsa Martyrs and Hamas challenge Arafat
PA president branded an Israeli ?tool,? unfit to carry
Compiled by Daily Star staff
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat faced new
challenges to his leadership Thursday, with Hamas
saying his Palestinian Authority had become a tool of
Israeli occupation and had no place in any political
reforms, while the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades vowed to
press ahead with suicide attacks, despite Arafat?s
Less than a month after triumphantly emerging from an
Israeli siege which restricted his movement but saw
his popularity among his population soar, radical
Palestinian organizations voiced discontent with the
the very manner in which Arafat negotiated the end to
In the Israeli coastal town of Herzliya, suspected
Palestinian militants tried to set ablaze a main
Israeli fuel pumping depot, hours after a suicide
bomber killed two Israelis in Rishon Letzion.
In a direct attack on Arafat?s leadership, Hamas
politburo head Khaled Meshaal said the first priority
of any new Palestinian political lineup should be to
embrace armed resistance in the face of Israeli
Arafat?s Palestinian Authority had already sold out,
and was being manipulated by Israel to help crush the
uprising, he added.
?If we want to reform, let?s start with the
leadership: Most of the leaders in the PA need to be
changed,? he said. ?These people with their swollen
pockets, who have lived on the suffering of the
Palestinian people, are not fit to reform.?
Meshaal?s sharp criticism came as Arafat promised to
hold presidential and legislative elections by early
next year, following demands for reform from
Palestinians as well as the Israeli government and its
close US ally.
Meshaal cited Arafat?s periodic crackdowns on
Palestinian activists as well as calls for an end to
the suicide bombings as evidence that the PA had
become a mouthpiece of the Israeli foe.
?This shows that the PA has reached such a point of
weakness and dependency, such a sense of impotence ?
that it pays no attention to anything but what pleases
the Americans and Israelis, and doesn?t do its duty of
defending the Palestinian people,? he said. ?What is
the point of having the PA if it is incapable of
defending its people??
?Imagine a government incapable of defending its
people and protecting civilians, but which at the same
time doesn?t want those people to defend themselves,?
Meshaal said US interest in Palestinian reform, and
Arafat?s apparent willingness, were further cause for
suspicion that the Palestinian leadership had cut a
deal to save itself by helping stamp out the 19-month
uprising against occupation.
?Reform in that sense means preventing resistance, and
transforming the PA into Lahd?s Army, a repressive
security tool to be used against the Palestinian
people and resistance,? he said, referring to the
Lebanese militia Israel maintained under Antoine Lahd
during its occupation of south Lebanon.
In a verbal counterattack, a senior aide to Arafat
accused Hamas of trying to use the reform drive to
replace the Palestinian leadership.
?Experience has proved the Hamas movement has its own
program, which is different from the national program,
and it is trying to substitute the leadership of the
Palestinian people,? Tayeb Abdel-Rahim, the PA
He charged that Hamas leaders abroad were ?immoral?
and had ?sold out,? comparing the radical movement to
Israel?s far-right, ?which calls for the destruction
of the Palestinian Authority.?
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, meanwhile, warned that
it would respect no ?red lines? in its confrontation
with Israel, at the funeral in Nablus Thursday of
three of its activists killed by Israeli tank fire.
The three men were buried in a single tomb at the site
where they died in Balata refugee camp on the edge of
the West Bank city of Nablus, which still bore traces
In a statement, distributed at the funeral, the group
said there will be ?no more red lines? in its fight
?Our response will measure up to the odious crime
against our chief, Mahmoud Titi, and his comrades,? it
said, while a local official vowed that retaliation
would be ?painful.?
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility
for Wednesday?s suicide bombing in Rishon Letzion,
which killed two Israelis and wounded 27.
In Thursday?s incident near Tel Aviv, Israeli police
said they suspected militants had planted a bomb on
the back of a tanker truck and detonated it by remote
control as it refueled at a
major fuel depot. Workers at the plant outside
Herzliya put out a fire caused by the blast before it
?A disaster was averted,? deputy Tel Aviv area police
chief David Krauser told Israel Army Radio of the
explosion at the coastal depot, which caused no
Security sources said Israel was not planning a
widescale retaliation for the Rishon Letzion bombing
or the incident at the fuel depot, but would continue
raiding Palestinian-ruled areas to root out militants
and keep up a policy of tracking and killing their
Two Palestinians were killed and five wounded in an
explosion Thursday at a house in Nablus in what
appeared to be an accident while they were preparing
explosives, Palestinian sources said.
Witnesses who came to the scene said the blast
appeared to have occurred inside the house and was not
the result of an Israeli missile or tank shell.
In Rafah, meanwhile, a Palestinian man was killed by
Israeli tank fire, Palestinian medical officials said.
Bassim Hamad Kishfar, 30, was hit in the chest when
the tanks opened fire with heavy machine-gun fire on
houses in the Salahdin Gate area of Rafah near the
border, they said.
Palestinian medical sources said there had been no
unrest in the area prior to the shooting, while the
Israeli Army said it was looking into the report.
In the West Bank city of Tulkarem, Palestinian
witnesses said that Israeli troops in a tank, an
armored personnel carrier and five jeeps pushed into
the city, firing as they advanced. There were no
immediate reports of any casualties. With agencies
Exiles insist on ?right of return?
ATHENS: Two Palestinians exiled after the siege of
Bethlehem?s Church of the Nativity insisted on their
right to return home Thursday, as some of the 12
militants began life in European host-countries under
a deal struck this week.
Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Belgium
agreed to provide refuge for 12, who were flown out of
Cyprus on Wednesday. A 13th remains in Cyprus, where
the men had been staying after leaving Bethlehem on
May 10. Mohammad Mouhanna, 21, one of two exiles in
Athens, stressed his right to return home.
?The EU?s Middle East ? representative, Miguel Angel
Moratinos, said our stay would be provisional and that
he hoped we would be able to return in a year,? he
Mouhanna described himself as a member of the
Palestinian security services who had been trained by
the CIA for bodyguard duties.
The Palestinian diplomatic representative in Athens
Abdullah Abdullah also spoke of ?the EU commitment to
guarantee their right of return. ?
?When? That will depend on conditions,? he said.
The second exile in Athens, Mamdouh al-Wardiyane, 23,
declined to confirm or deny he was a member of Hamas,
as claimed by Israel.
?We hope we won?t be here too long,? he said.
Three Palestinians left Spain Thursday, two flying to
Ireland and another to Belgium.
Palestinian envoy Abdullah said here the two exiles in
Athens were completely free and would lead a quiet and
normal life at the expense of Greece, which was also
responsible for their security. AFP
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