Arafat arrests Hamas chiefs

PATRICK COCKBURN

Ramallah, West Bank

Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, yesterday arrested three leading members of the military wing of Hamas, amid growing complaints from Palestinians on the West Bank that they are effectively besieged.

Under intense pressure from Israel and the United States Mr Arafat has so far arrested 600 Islamic militants as well as taking over mosques, schools and charities run by Hamas. Palestinian security forces in Gaza say they have arrested three men - Abdel Satari, Salem Abu Marouf and Kamal Khalifa - wanted for masterminding the suicide bomb attacks which killed 58 people in two weeks.

In Ramallah, the Palestinian town just north of Jerusalem, anger is growing against Israel rather than Hamas for the clampdown which has crippled business and made it difficult to get in or out.

"In the last two days we have got close to an explosion," said Mahmoud Jasser, an official of Fatah, Mr Arafat's political movement. "You can't move between the 465 villages on the West Bank. People can't work. Now they are saying that Israel is not serious about the peace process." He admitted that Fatah was divided on what line to take, which in practice means the degree to which it is prepared to cooperate with Israeli security.

A sign of the division between Palestinians is the row over the future of Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian security organisation for the West Bank, who at the weekend was denying that he had been fired by Mr Arafat. Based in Jericho he is the most powerful Palestinian in the West Bank and a veteran member of Fatah who spent 16 years in jail. On Saturday, however, he was reported to have been replaced Hussein al-Sheikh, the police commander for Ramallah.

The reason for Mr Rajoub's differences with Mr Arafat probably stem from his failure to stop the suicide bombers, whose local organiser, Mohammed Abu Wardeh, was a student at a teacher training college in Ramallah. Mr Rajoub has always advocated treating Hamas as errant nationalists and not as enemies.

In Gaza on Saturday night Mr Arafat met George Tenet, the deputy director of the US Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA reportedly repeated Israeli demands that Mr Arafat arrest five members of Izzedine al Qasim, the military wing of Hamas. The PLO leader appears to have decided that he has no choice - in the face of overwhelming Israeli and international pressure - but to clamp down on Hamas' military and civilian activities.

In reply Hamas said in a leaflet that it had decided to resume its suicide operations because the Palestinian Authority had gone "too far in its attack on Hamas". It said that the summit of 31 countries on terrorism in Egypt on Wednesday is "a desperate attempt to save the Zionists from humiliation and lift their cowardly spirits which were destroyed by our martyrs' courage".

In Israeli occupied south Lebanon Muslim guerrillas yesterday killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded four according to pro-Israeli militia sources.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established managed services IT...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003