Palestinian militias firm against handing over guns

Hamas also, balmes Palestinian Authority of trying to "eliminate" the resistance.

hamas gunmen 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
hamas gunmen 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Several Palestinian armed groups on Sunday rejected attempts by the Palestinian Authority to confiscate their weapons, vowing to thwart such moves. The groups also threatened to launch attacks on Israel to embarrass the PA leadership on the eve of the US-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland. The threats came shortly after PA Interior Minister Abdel Razzak Yahya, who is formally in charge of the Fatah-controlled security forces in the West Bank, said that the PA was determined to disarm all armed groups as required by the road map plan for peace in the Middle East. Hamas also expressed its strong opposition to the disarmament of any group and denounced Yahya's statements as an attempt to "eliminate" the Palestinian "resistance." The movement renewed its call on Abbas to boycott the planned conference. The PA minister said his forces were currently carrying out a massive security operation against armed gangs in the Nablus area. "These gangs have harmed the residents and caused them a lot of damage," he said. "We are determined to end the state of lawlessness and anarchy and dissolve all militias and armed groups." Yahya confirmed that the PA leadership had promised Israel to dismantle all militias and armed groups in the West Bank ahead of the Annapolis peace conference. He added that the first to be targeted were members of Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, so as not to give anyone an excuse to say that the PA leadership is favoring one group over the other. Despite the PA's ongoing security operation in the Nablus area, local residents said that many armed groups were still operating there and that those taken into custody were not top gunmen. "They are making many arrests, but it's mostly of suspects involved in petty crime," said a prominent businessman living in Nablus. "The latest security operation, which has nevertheless been welcomed by many here, is apparently aimed at appeasing the Americans and Israelis on the eve of the peace conference and showing that the Palestinian Authority is making a serious effort to impose law and order." In the context of the security clampdown, scores of PA policemen have been surrounding the Ain refugee camp near Nablus since Saturday night in a bid to capture a number of armed gangsters. But the operation has drawn sharp criticism from the radical group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which accused the PA security forces of targeting its members. The camp has long been known as a stronghold for members of the PFLP's armed wing, which is called the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades. Sources close to the group said the PA policemen were searching for PFLP activists who had refused to surrender their weapons. A senior PA official denied allegations that the men were being targeted for shooting at IDF soldiers and Jewish settlers in the West Bank. The PFLP lashed out at Abbas for ordering the crackdown and warned that such measures would only serve Israeli interests. The group said the latest crackdown was clearly aimed at persuading the Israelis and Americans that the PA was doing its utmost to protect Israel. The group vowed to resist any attempt to disarm its members and called on Abbas to "return to the people" because the US and Israel "won't reward you for your actions and will only step up their pressure on you." In Gaza City, the Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of various armed groups, dismissed the PA's drive to confiscate "illegal" weapons as a measure that is doomed to failure. It accused Abbas and his Fatah faction of conspiring with Israel and the US to wipe out armed groups.