05/18/2006, 00.00
PALESTINE
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Intra-Palestinian tensions rising, PNA President Abbas orders 'Hamas' police disbanded

piIt's a very worrying situation for Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who is close to Abbas. For Azzam al-Ahmad, Fatah parliamentary leader, Hamas' actions can lead either to civil war or fresh elections.  

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – After recent clashes, relations between Hamas and Fatah are tense. After Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas ordered this morning Palestinian police move against the deployment of the new security force set by the Hamas government, he also ordered it be immediately disbanded and disarmed.

In reporting the development, Israeli daily Haaretz said that thousands of police officers and agents from other security forces loyal to the president, some shouting 'we are in charge; we are with Abu Mazen', took up position in and around Gaza streets where Hamas's new security force had deployed its own agents.

General Suleiman Hilles, commander of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and Gaza, said the forces were deployed to send a message that "the Palestinian police are the only side that can maintain law and order".

For its part, the Jerusalem Post reports today that Hamas Deputy Prime Minister Nasser din-Shaer, who was visiting Tulkarem in the West Bank, had to interrupt his meeting with the city's governor because Fatah gunmen had fired shots in the air near the governor's compound. He was eventually forced to leave the area under police escort.

The local leader of the armed Fatah al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades said that Hamas members were not welcome in Tulkarem.

"It's a very worrying situation," said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who is close to Abbas.

"He (Abbas) ordered the deployment of the (regular) Palestinian forces, and ordered the other (Hamas-linked) forces to leave the streets. I hope they leave," Erekat said of the Hamas gunmen. "If they don't leave, we are heading toward a serious crisis."

Palestinian Interior Minister Said Siyam announced yesterday that the new security force—primarily drawn from Hamas' military wing: the al-Qassam Brigades—was supposed to assist Palestinian police against those groups trying to attack Hamas and government leaders.

However, as soon as plans to create the new force (which would join other existing Palestinian secuirty forces) were announced, PNA President Abbas said he opposed the idea.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya retorted that the interior minister had every right to set up such a force.

Azzam al-Ahmad, leader of the Fatah caucus in the Palestinian Legislative Council, warned that Hamas' actions will lead either to civil war or fresh elections.

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