Weak Palestinian forces may hurt pullout
* Israel warns of retaliation if militants disrupt Gaza withdrawal
JERUSALEM: The Palestinian security forces are in such disarray that they may not be able to fill the vacuum left by Israel after it withdraws from the Gaza Strip this year, an independent report released on Tuesday found.
The survey by a Washington-based think tank advising US security coordinator Lt-Gen. William Ward said that Palestinian security services were over-staffed, poorly armed and undermined by rivalry between security chiefs as well as by corruption.
The report also criticised Israel for undermining the effectiveness of the Palestinian security services through military operations during a nearly five-year-old Palestinian uprising as well as failing to coordinate the Gaza withdrawal.
The conclusions by the Strategic Assessments Initiative group were released ahead of testimony to a US congressional committee later on Tuesday by Ward, assigned by Washington to help the Palestinian Authority overhaul its security forces.
It said Palestinian security forces “lacked the capacity and capability to fulfill core functions” and might have trouble taking control when Israel pulls its troops and 9,000 settlers out of Gaza and the northern West Bank starting mid-August. “Lack of clarity in relation to the future of settlement assets, land allocation and property rights may present a threat to stability,” the report said.
Israels warns of retaliation: Israel’s Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Tuesday his country would retaliate swiftly against Palestinian militants if they tried to disrupt next month’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.
Briefing reporters in London, Shalom also repeated that the European Union should place the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organisations, and urged the international community to have no contact with the Palestinian group Hamas.
Shalom, who is on a working visit to Britain, also warned that Iran could have the knowledge to build a nuclear bomb within six to nine months.
Israel plans to forcibly move some 9,000 Jewish settlers from their homes _ 8,500 in Gaza and 500 in four small settlements in the northern West Bank. The evacuation is to start Aug. 17, and last about three weeks. agencies