Jerusalem, PA at odds over amnesty

PMO denies Palestinian claims that Israel will pardon an additional 110 gunmen.

August 18, 2007 15:24
2 minute read.
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The Prime Minister's Office on Saturday night unequivocally denied Palestinian claims that Israel had taken another 110 Fatah gunmen off its wanted terrorist list. "There is nothing to this at all," a senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said, disputing claims by PA security officials that a list with the names of the gunmen was delivered to the Palestinian Authority over the weekend. The official said that not only was there no new list, but that Israel had no intention in the near future of adding to the list of names of wanted Palestinians it would no longer track down. As part of a package of goodwill gestures to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Israel last month granted amnesty to some 178 Fatah gunmen, primarily from Fatah's military wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades. Under the understandings reached at the time, the gunmen were required to surrender their weapons and join the Fatah-controlled security forces in the West Bank. Before Israel denied the existence of any new list, Col. Akram Rajoub, commander of the PA's Preventative Security Force in Nablus, said he was planning to summon the gunmen whose names he said appeared on the new list to inform them that they were no longer on Israel's list of wanted terrorists. He pointed out that 31 of the gunmen were from the Nablus area, while the rest were from different parts of the West Bank. However, "The list does not include names of known gunmen who are wanted by Israel," Rajoub said. "This is unfortunate, but we will continue to discuss the case of the fugitives with the Israeli authorities until we resolve it completely." Nasser al-Kharaz, a top commander of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades in Nablus, said his name appeared on the list that was handed over to the Palestinians over the weekend. Officials in the Prime Minister's Office had no explanation as to why the Palestinians were saying there was such a list if one did not exist. In Nablus, meanwhile, Fatah gunmen kidnapped Baha Tufaha, a Hamas-affiliated engineer working for the Nablus Municipality. The incident occurred shortly after reports from the Gaza Strip said that Hamas militiamen had destroyed the grave of slain Fatah gang leader Sameeh al-Madhoun, who was lynched last June. Hamas, in a related matter, called on Abbas to appoint a new government. Ahmed Bahr, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said the government of Salaam Fayad was "illegal" and had not won the confidence of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He also called on Abbas to release all the Hamas detainees from PA prisons in the West Bank. Bahr dismissed the Middle East peace conference that is scheduled to be held later this year as a "public relations stunt." The US, he said, was resorting to the conference because of the failure of its policy in Iraq in particular and the Middle East in general.

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