18 hurt as gunmen attack HQ of Arafat’s nephew in Gaza

19/07/2004 At least 12 Palestinians were reported wounded in fighting Sunday in Gaza between Palestinian Fatah militants and Palestinian Authority security forces. The conflict centers on a round of new security appointments made by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat in the past few days, including that of Arafat’s nephew Musa as head of the PA’s Gaza security apparatus. Medics in Rafah said at least 12 people had been brought to hospital with wounds sustained when hundreds of armed Fatah members, together with an angry crowd numbering hundreds more, attacked the headquarters of the Palestinian military intelligence in Rafah yesterday with gunfire, Molotov cocktails and stones.

After about a two-hour siege, forces inside the eastern Rafah compound called on the attackers to hold fire, and a cease-fire was attained with the aid of local intermediaries. Leaflets distributed in the Strip by the military wing of Fatah following the attack stated that it came as a protest against the appointment of Musa Arafat to the head of General Security, one of three new security organizations created by his uncle, Yasser Arafat. According to Palestinian and foreign sources, Yasser Arafat had been under pressure from the Egyptians to announce new senior security appointments by July 20. These included General Saeb al-Ajez, appointed Saturday to the position of commander of the Palestinian police in the Gaza Strip in place of Ghazi Jabali, who was kidnapped last Friday and held by armed Fatah militants. The appointment of Musa Arafat, previously head of the PA military intelligence, came as part of the unification of the Palestinian military organizations in the Strip, which Arafat had also implemented as part of his pledge to the Egyptians. The first organization will unite all forces under the aegis of the interior ministry – the police, the preventive security apparatus and the civil defense. The second organization is the intelligence, in charge of political surveillance in the PA, and the third is the General Security, now Musa Arafat’s domain. More new Arafat-backed appointments to Gaza security organizations are expected. The appointments were planned before the kidnapings on Friday, but Yasser Arafat used them as an excuse to move ahead with the new appointments, dismissing Ghazi Jabali from his post in its aftermath. Meanwhile, in Khan Yunis, a group of armed Palestinians set alight the headquarters of the military intelligence. According to Palestinians, some 15 armed men took over the headquarters which was manned by police, and the members of the security organization headed by Musa Arafat before his Saturday promotion. The attackers seized the weapons they found and ransacked the building, after which they set fire to it and left. In a meeting at the Muqata yesterday, Arafat blamed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for raising tensions in Gaza. „We are expecting changes in the internal Palestinian arena and are focusing on our own house,” Arafat said in an unusual statement. „Events in the Gaza Strip prove that there is no one to talk to,” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. „Arafat is trying to create the illusion of reform,” said Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, „but in actuality there is no intent to reform and no reform has been carried out. We are spectators in a game of musical chairs with the same old familiar players and with an unclear announcement about the unification of the security forces.” According to Mofaz, Arafat’s move is „not serious.” Mofaz argued that Arafat was „keeping his authority and the security organizations under his thumb.” „Our goal is to restore security to Palestinian citizens and to fight any enemy that threatens that security,” Musa Arafat declared yesterday. His statement was interpreted as a veiled threat against those in the Fatah who demand his resignation. „The occupation is a possible enemy but we will fight every enemy.” Arafat’s statement was thought to be directed at the armed groups in Fatah fighting against his appointment, especially the groups identified with Mohammed Dahlan, who called on Yasser Arafat to cancel Musa Arafat’s appointment. A letter was distributed yesterday morning in Gaza, written by Juma Ghali, commander of the Palestinian navy, and one of Yasser Arafat’s veteran associates, in which he resigned his commission, calling Musa Arafat a „low dwarf.” The head of the Preventive Security, Rashid Abu Shbak, a Dahlan supporter, and Amin al-Hindi, commander of the General Security, also hinted at their resignations, although they have not announced them publicly, reportedly waiting for Arafat to rescind the appointment of Musa Arafat.