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Al-Aqsa Martyrs and Hamas challenge Arafat - Daily Star, Lebanon

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  • Zafar Khan
    Al-Aqsa Martyrs and Hamas challenge Arafat PA president branded an Israeli ?tool,? unfit to carry out reforms http://www.dailystar.com.lb/24_05_02/art2.asp
    Message 1 of 1 , May 25, 2002
      Al-Aqsa Martyrs and Hamas challenge Arafat
      PA president branded an Israeli ?tool,? unfit to carry
      out reforms


      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
      the siege.
      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,?
      he added.
      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
      secretary-general, said.
      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
      of blood.

      In a statement, distributed at the funeral, the group
      said there will be ?no more red lines? in its fight
      against Israel.
      ?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
      could spread.

      ?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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