Fatah faithful turn against their leader: Arafat's most loyal backers are now questioning his authority, writes Sarah Helm in Jerusalem

'I WANT to kill him,' said the teenage strone-thrower in Shofat refugee camp yesterday when asked what he thought of Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. The youth said he was still a supporter of Fatah - Mr Arafat's faction in the PLO - but, as for Mr Arafat himself: 'He is finished.'

Up on the Mount of Olives, in East Jerusalem, in Shofat Refugee Camp, in Hebron, and throughout the West Bank and Gaza yesterday the air was again thick with tear-gas, and the were roads blocked by smouldering barricades.

The emotional backlash following the Hebron massacre continues to surge in waves of violence throughout the West Bank and Gaza. While the protests and stones are directed at Israeli soldiers, back in force to reassert control, much of the anger is directed at Mr Arafat. 'Fatah must go on, but without Abu Amar (Mr Arafat's nom de guerre). If he comes here he will die. He is not our leader any more,' said Khaled, 18, manning a barricade on the normally tranquil Mount of Olives, as Israeli soldiers took aim from the roofs.

Not only are the youths on the street in open rebellion against the PLO leader. While Israel pleads with the PLO to return to the peace talks, many delegates from the occupied territories were yesterday under curfew - unable to leave their homes, never mind travel to Washington to negotiate. With the streets outside as volatile as they have been since the height of the intifada, even these delegates - Mr Arafat's most loyal supporters - are beginning to ask how long his credibility can last.

Before the Hebron massacre, confidence in Mr Arafat's peace deal was already plummeting, as the promised gains of September failed to materialise. Since Hebron, however, Mr Arafat stands accused of being a party to a deal which may have contributed to the disaster. Under the Oslo accords, the PLO agreed with Israel that Jewish settlements should stay in the first phase of peace, and that settlers like Baruch Goldstein, the perpetrator of the massacre, should be able to roam freely with arms among the Palestinians.

If Mr Arafat returns to the negotiations now, without major new concessions from Israel, his dream of walking back to reclaim the West Bank and Gaza will be scotched once and for all. 'He cannot set one foot on the land of Palestine. Nobody wants him here. He knows that,' said Mohammed, a Mount of Olives shopkeeper. Sensing acutely the anger on the streets, the local PLO leadership have stated categorically that they will not return to the talks unless their new terms are agreed by Israel.

These terms include the disarming of settlers, immediate talks on the future of settlements, and international protection for the Palestinians. So far, Yitzhak Rabin, Israel's Prime Minister, has failed to come anywhere near to meeting the terms. Israel's release yesterday of 500 prisoners - due out imminently anyway - was dismissed as meaningless.

Mr Rabin has suggested he may consider a new international presence in the occupied territories - but not a 'force'. And he proposed disarming only a tiny minority of Jewish settlers, while refusing any possibility of discussing the future of settlements. Within the senior Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Gaza, there is a nervousness now about what the future holds.

There is also a great awareness that they - like Mr Arafat - now have very little credibility left. In his office in East Jerusalem, a short distance from the scene of continuing clashes, Faisal Husseini, the senior PLO figure in the West Bank, said yesterday that without these concessions from Israel, returning to the talks would be 'impossible'. 'The people on the street are angry. Arafat is finished - all the PLO leadership is finished - if we do not acknowledge the reality that we can only return to the talks on these conditions,' he said.

Inevitably the massacre of Muslims in a mosque has strengthened the hand of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, and other groups that opposed Mr Arafat's peace deal from the start. Many Fatah supporters are reported to be joining the opposition.

More worrying for Mr Arafat is the evidence of a split within Fatah at the grass roots. For the first time, Fatah members speak about staying loyal to the organisation - but removing its leader. 'Fatah is about ideas, not about people. Fatah does not need one man to survive,' said a Fatah official in the West Bank.

Emotionally, it is hard for them. For years they have paid homage to Abu Amar, the unifier of the Palestinian people and the symbol of liberation. But these Fatah loyalists are beginning to cut loose from Mr Arafat's bonds and to look for other symbols. Already, according to Fatah officials, sections of the organisation are moving 'underground' again.

So fragile and so slight are the foundations of the new 'Palestinian entity' begun in September that it will not take much to knock them down. A few bare offices here, a few unpaid officials there, are all that will disappear, along with tattered Palestinian flags and dog-eared posters of Mr Arafat.

Israeli soldiers shot dead a Jewish settler and wounded his wife by mistake in the occupied West Bank yesterday, Reuter reports.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
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: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own