Hamas wants probe into 'surrender'

Palestinians upset over "humiliating" way policemen stripped to underwear.

ahmed saadat 298 (photo credit: www.aljazeerah.info)
ahmed saadat 298
(photo credit: www.aljazeerah.info)
Hamas legislators are demanding a commission of inquiry into Tuesday's IDF raid on the Jericho prison, as many Palestinians expressed outrage over the "humiliating" way in which scores of Palestinian Authority policemen, stripped to their underwear, surrendered. In a separate development, Hamas spokesman Salah Bardawil announced that the new cabinet could be announced on Thursday. He said Fatah would not join the cabinet, which would consist mostly of ministers who were not members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. A general strike was declared in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Wednesday in protest against the raid. Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets, chanting slogans against Israel, the US and Britain. Militiamen continued to issue threats against any American or British citizen who enters the PA territories. "This is humiliation for all Palestinians," PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told reporters during a tour of the Jericho prison on Wednesday. "This is an unforgivable crime and a violation of all agreements that we have signed." Abbas held both Britain and the US responsible for what happened. "The American and British monitors left the prison five minutes before the Israeli soldiers stormed it," he said. "This shows that they had colluded with Israel." Abbas, however, confirmed that the British government had informed him of its intention to withdraw its monitors. "But," he added, "they did not set a date. They surprised us by leaving very quickly." Abbas and the PA leadership, meanwhile, have come under sharp criticism for failing to prevent the arrest of the assassins of tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi. Many Palestinians said they were more disturbed by the humiliating way in which scores of PA policemen, walked out of the compound than by the arrest of the five members of the PFLP and Karine A bankroller Fuad Shubaki. Dozens of Fatah activists in the Bethlehem area signed a petition on Wednesday calling on Abbas to resign and dissolve the PA. "The stripping of the PA security officers in front of the entire world is a disgrace for all Palestinians and Arabs," they wrote. "If the Palestinian Authority can't protect its prisoners, it might as well be dismantled." Mustafa Barghouti, head of the Ramallah-based Independent Palestine List, said most Palestinians were deeply offended by the pictures featuring the semi-naked policemen. "What is the value of all the PA security forces if Israel could force their members to strip any time?" he asked. "We have reached this situation because of the Oslo Accords and the imaginary arrangements created under them." Hafez Barghouti, editor of the PA-funded daily Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, described what happened in Jericho as a scandal. "This is a scandal for the Palestinian Authority because it proves that it is on the verge of collapse and that it is unable to achieve anything," he said. "Our government is behaving as if it were ruling in Finland and not in the Palestinian territories." Majdi Ashour, a Nablus lawyer and political analyst, said the images of the policemen in their underwear were designed to humiliate not only the Palestinians, but the entire Arab and Muslim world. "Every Arab and Muslim should feel ashamed," he said. "If I were in Abbas's place, I would resign immediately." A senior Fatah official commented sarcastically: "I suggest that the PA leadership buy another pair of underwear for all its security officers so that next time they won't be left totally naked." Hamas legislators here told The Jerusalem Post that they were planning to summon Interior Minister Nasser Youssef and other security commanders to a special hearing to demand explanations about the surrender of the policemen. "We want to know why the policemen did not defend the prison," said one legislator. "We want to know who issued the orders to surrender in this humiliating way." Another legislator said the events in Jericho had seriously undermined the Palestinians' confidence in their security establishment. "How can any Palestinian respect the security forces after watching their members stripped to their underwear in public?" he asked. "I believe there are many decent officers who would have resisted the Israeli operation, but the problem is with their commanders." In a related development, Palestinian militiamen released the last four foreigners they were holding, a day after seizing the hostages to protest against the Jericho raid. PA security officials escorted the four hostages, including a South Korean journalist, two French citizens and a Canadian aid worker, into the headquarters of the PA Preventative Security Service in Gaza City. The hostages, all unharmed, called their families before leaving for Israel, escorted by diplomats and representatives of the Red Cross. Altogether, 17 foreigners had been abducted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the past 48 hours.