(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority Interior Minister Hani Kawassmeh resigned from his post because he does not want the PA security forces to be involved in any attempt to halt rocket attacks on Israel, PA officials said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a 12-year-old boy was killed and nine others injured in fighting that erupted over the last 48 hours between rival clans in the Gaza Strip, PA security sources said.
The sources said the family of a Palestinian man killed in internecine violence earlier this week raided on Tuesday the offices of the Palestinian parliament in Gaza City, carrying their son's body with them. The move was meant to protest the ongoing violence.
Kawassmeh, who joined the new Hamas-led government five weeks ago as an independent, submitted his resignation earlier this week amidst reports of a major dispute he had with PA security commanders in the Gaza Strip. He complained that the security commanders were hindering his efforts to implement a security plan that would restore law and order to Gaza.
Kawassmeh's main criticism was directed against Rashid Abu Shabak, a top security commander in the Gaza Strip, who is closely associated with PA National Security Advisor Muhammad Dahlan. Kawassmeh has accused both Abu Shabak and Dahlan of undermining his powers.
Kawassmeh's resignation was the first crisis to face the new coalition, and it came amidst renewed tensions between Fatah and Hamas.
In a letter to Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman, Kawassmeh complained that Fatah leaders were trying to sabotage his efforts to impose law and order and demanded Cairo's intervention.
Hamas officials have accused Abu Shabak and Dahlan of inciting the PA security forces in the Gaza Strip against the interior minister, who is formally in charge of security. They also claimed that the two were working toward establishing a new Fatah "army" in the Gaza Strip with the help of Israel and the US.
According to the officials, Abu Shabak, who was appointed by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, recently issued instructions to all the PA security forces to ignore Kawassmeh and the Interior Ministry.
But senior PA officials in Ramallah, who vehemently denied the allegations, told The Jerusalem Post that Kawassmeh had decided to quit because he did not want the PA security forces to try to stop rocket attacks on Israel.
"Kawassmeh argues that this is not the job of the security forces," said one official. "He wants the forces to deal only with enforcing law and order." At the request of PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Kawassmeh agreed on Tuesday to freeze his resignation until next week.
Another PA official said he did not rule out the possibility that Kawassmeh's resignation was a "ploy" by Hamas to blame Fatah security commanders for the ongoing anarchy in the Gaza Strip. The resignation, he added, may also be an attempt by Hamas to exert pressure on Abbas on the eve of his meeting in Cairo with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.
"Hamas is trying to create a crisis," the official said. "Apparently, they are not happy with the fact that the security forces remain under the control of Fatah officials.
They are also angry because of the security talks that have been taking place between Israeli, Palestinian, American and Egyptian representatives."
Palestinian political analyst Mahmoud Habbash said Kawassmeh had no choice but to resign in the wake of growing lawlessness in the Gaza Strip. "I don't believe that he will succeed in his difficult mission to end the anarchy," he said. "I also don't think that he will be able to implement his new security plan, which was approved by the government.
Street killings, kidnappings and bombings are on the rise, and the government appears to be afraid to do anything. So why shouldn't he resign? And why shouldn't the entire government resign?"