Abbas says Gaza border chaos is over
* Palestinian Authority demands more arms to take on militants
RAFAH: Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday said Gaza’s border with Egypt is under control after days of chaos.
“The chaos that existed here is over,” Abbas said following a tour of the area. Palestinian security forces said they sealed the border early Sunday, halting the flow of people into Egypt. Thousands of people freely crossed in and out of Egypt last week following Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.
Meanwhile, Palestinian security forces are caught in the ultimate Catch 22. Expected to enforce law and order in the newly “liberated” Gaza Strip, they complain they are too weak to carry out the task. Officers in the Palestinian Authority paint a picture of a force that has been battered by Israeli attacks during the five-year intifada and the defection of its own men into armed militias.
They worry openly about the spectre of civil war following Israel’s historic pullout of Jewish settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip after 38 years of occupation.
Israel brushes aside these complaints, charging that the estimated 30,000-plus Palestinian security force in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank has the power to crack down on militant factions. The lack of direction among Palestinian troops was on full display this past week as mobs and militias looted former Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and punched at least 10 holes in the border fence between Rafah and Egypt so they could stream across.
Colonel Jamal Kayed, head of security in the southern Gaza Strip, faults Israel for the weakness of his forces. “All of the time, you (Israel) are preventing us from getting armed and trained and then you want us to fight the Islamic movements,” he says.
“I feel the Israelis are looking for the Palestinian Authority to get into a civil war and whoever wins will be even weaker so Israel can dictate terms to them.”
Colonel Rifat Kolah, commander of preventive security forces in southern Gaza, accuses Israel of deliberately cutting off their weapons supplies. “Israel has insisted on weakening the security forces. The first two years of the intifada saw all the Palestinian security centres destroyed and attacked by the Israelis,” Kolah said. “Until now, they don’t allow the Palestinian Authority to start accepting new equipment.”
Meanwhile, EU External Relation Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser Al-Kidwa that further efforts would be necessary to prevent attacks against Israel and provide security for ordinary Palestinians.
In a statement released on Sunday, a day after her meeting with Al-Kidwa on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Ferrero-Waldner praised the Palestinian Authority for maintaining calm during the removal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip. “It is essential that the withdrawal should swiftly bring tangible improvements in the lives of Palestinians living both in Gaza and the West Bank,” she said. agencies