Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Arafat, Qrei' make up

by Omar Karmi
PRIME MINISTER Ahmed Qrei' on July 27 rescinded his resignation ten days after he tendered it, after an emergency meeting with President Yasser Arafat apparently brought the government crisis to an end.
“President Arafat demonstrated his confidence in me by rejecting my resignation. I value this confidence that he has placed in me and I will therefore continue in my role,” Qrei' said to reporters after the meeting. For his part, Arafat stressed the need to consolidate Palestinian ranks to confront the challenges facing the Palestinian people. He also criticized the media for focusing too much on the crisis and not enough on “Israeli crimes.”

The meeting is reported to have ended in agreement to adopt the reform document issued by the Legislative Council in May 2002, and the Cabinet is to assume control over the police and preventive security service.
It was also agreed during the meeting that Legislative Council would hold a special session next week to determine the work and responsibilities of the three security apparatuses, though, according to foreign minister Nabil Shaath, the recent appointments in the security agencies were not discussed. Shaath also said no Cabinet reshuffle would take place at the moment.

Legislative Council member, Hanan Ashrawi, who earlier in the week had called for an end to the “one-man-show,” and who was present at the July 27 meeting, said Arafat had authorized Qrei' to take measures against corrupt officials. Minister for Negotiations Affairs Saeb Erekat said Arafat had already instructed the Attorney General to expedite work on corruption files that had been transferred from the government and vowed that there would be no immunity for any official in this respect.

Egypt welcomed the outcome of the meeting – “It is a useful development,” the Associated Press quoted Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher as saying on July 27 – after earlier in the week on July 21 having to deny a newspaper report in the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi that hinted at a possible Egyptian role in the Gaza protests. On July 21, a presidential spokesperson reaffirmed Cairo 's position that “without Arafat the Palestinian cause will not be solved.”

Before meeting Egyptian officials in Cairo on July 28, however, US Secretary of State Colin Powell greeted the agreement with some skepticism.

“President Arafat is the master of the ambiguous statement or the statement with the yo-yo string on it. It gets pulled back,” Powell said. “We're looking for action. When we see that (Qrei') has real authority over the security forces and is taking action to make them more effective and efficient, make them more competent and is taking action against terrorism, then we'll be convinced.”

The meeting followed a week in which unrest in the Gaza Strip had calmed but not disappeared. On July 25, dozens of armed men took over the Khan Yunis Governorate headquarters demanding the reappointment of members of the security services who had been dismissed.

On July 22, Fateh organized a large demonstration in Gaza City in which thousands, many armed, marched through the streets to the Legislative Council building. Addressing the crowd, leading Fateh figure, Samir Masharawi said the movement would continue its demonstrations to remove corruption. He also cautioned protestors, however, that “disagreement does not have to be fighting,” and called on all to desist from attacking any institutions.

On July 21, a special commission of the Legislative Council, headed by Marwan Kanafani, and including Ziad Abu Amr, Abu Ali Shaheen, Azmi Shueibi, Hasan Asfour and Imad Falouji, had called on Arafat to accept the resignation of the government because it had failed to assume its duties under the Basic Law, the temporary Constitution.

The political turmoil overshadowed the violence, which nevertheless continued apace. On July 21, ten houses were destroyed in Rafah by Israeli forces, and the day after, July 22, two members of Islamic Jihad 's military wing, Al Quds Brigades, were assassinated in the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City by missiles fired from Israeli helicopters. On July 24, a 17-year-old was shot and killed in Beit Hanoun, and five further houses were demolished in Rafah.

An incursion into Tulkarm on July 25 by an Israeli special forces unit left six members of Fateh's military wing, the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, dead. According to residents, the Israeli army surrounded the house after the shootings and prevented ambulances from reaching the wounded. On the same day, Israeli Apache helicopters also shelled an empty house in the Zaitoun neighborhood, injuring four bystanders, and 12 children were injured by shelling in the Khan Yunis area, after a Qassem rocket had hit the Gush Katif settlement, wounding seven settlers.

Also in Khan Yunis, a woman, 50, and a girl, 12, were killed on July 26 in the besieged town of Beit Hanoun . According to residents, the two were killed and several wounded, when Israeli troops opened fire at homes in the town now in its 29th day under siege. -Published July 28, 2004©Palestine Report

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