fatah gunmen 298 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Palestinian Authority announced on Sunday a security plan aimed at disbanding the armed wing of Fatah and recruiting hundreds of its members to the security forces.
Endorsed by the PA's National Security Council during a meeting in Ramallah, the plan calls for establishing training camps for the militiamen - most of who belong to the ruling Fatah party - as a first step towards incorporating them into the security forces. The meeting was attended by commanders of all the PA security forces.
The plan was originally approved several months ago, but was not fully implemented because of numerous demands set by the gunmen, including higher salaries and senior positions in the security forces. It was also unclear Sunday night whether all Fatah militiamen had accepted the plan.
Palestinian officials told The Jerusalem Post that PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who visited Washington last week, presented the plan to US President George W. Bush and won his approval. "The Americans welcomed the security plan," said one official. "They demanded that the Palestinian Authority start implementing it immediately."
Another official said the plan is directed first and foremost towards Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, whose members are largely responsible for the current state of lawlessness and anarchy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "These men will have to surrender their weapons and join the security forces," he explained. "Those who refuse will face punitive measures."
Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, who chaired the meeting of the National Security Council, said the plan would be implemented first in Nablus and Ramallah. "The plan will be implemented in phases and we will begin with Nablus and Ramallah," he said. "The commanders of the security forces will remain in Ramallah this week to follow the implementation of the plan before they move to Nablus the following week."
Qurei said the plan was designed to restore law and order "in cooperation with all political factions and resistance groups." He revealed that the PA had decided to set up five training camps in the West Bank for the gunmen, who are expected to join the various branches of the security forces.
Interior Minister Nasser Youssef, who participated in the meeting, said the PA had begun taking measures to end the presence of armed groups and militiamen on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He said all the Palestinian factions have agreed to cooperate with the PA in its efforts to end the anarchy.
According to Youssef, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades will be dismantled after its members are incorporated into the security forces. "We will merge the members of the group into the security forces, protect them and train them in military camps," he said. "This will take place in the coming weeks."
He said that the security chaos reflected 'political anarchy" among the Palestinian leadership and was the result of harsh economic conditions because of Israeli restrictions.
In a separate development, Hamas announced on Sunday that it was close to singing an "agreement of understandings" with Fatah. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said representatives of the two parties held a series of meetings over the past few days in a bid to patch up their differences.
"We're very close to reaching a number of understandings between us on various issues," he said, adding that the deal relates to future relations between Hamas and Fatah, the future of the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the Israeli disengagement and the role of the different armed groups.