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Palestinians blow up American Aid Workers: PLO or PNA?

10/16/2003

The deadly Palestinian attack on a jeep carrying American humanitarian aid workers in Gaza on October 15 should be a red light for the Palestinian authority as well as for the United States. It is certain that the Palestinian authority had no part in this senseless act, which killed people who were coming to interview candidates for scholarships. Equally certain, the act underlines the fact that the Palestinian authority has lost control over Palestinian guerilla groups, and that lawlessness and anarchy have been wrecking Palestinian society since the start of the Intifada. As Palestinian activist (co-founder of ISM and director of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement, Ghassan Andoni points out, the attack underlines a crucial question for the Palestinians too. The Palestine Liberation Orgnization was founded to "liberate Palestine." It is an underground group. The Palestinian Authority is supposed to be a Palestinian government that was born of the Oslo accords, and that would keep the peace and negotiate a compromise settlement. Compromise is not compatible with liberating Palestine. Yet PLO officials explain quite readily that PLO and PNA are the same thing. They can't be.

The Irgun underground that was dedicated to getting a Jewish state that included all of greater Israel could never negotiate peace with Jordan. An underground group cannot run a state. The Palestinians will have to chose between fighting for liberation eternally or getting a state and keeping order, including suppressing groups that want to "liberate Palestine" (destroy Israel).

It is certain that Israeli hard-liners will use this attack to show the PNA in the worst possible light, and President Bush has already stated that the attack hurts Palestinian chances for statehood. It is very problematic to conclude an agreement with a government that cannot maintain order and doesn't even try to do so.

Though recently the USA has focused its attention on the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups, this attack was apparently carried out by dissident Fatah members. Given the lawlessness prevailing in the PNA and the frequent and virulent anti-American incitement, the attack was not surprising.
What was surprising, was that anyone was surprised by this attack. The Palestinian authority would not condone violence against the USA, but his has permitted and encouraged incitement to violence.
An Intifada call aired on Ramallah TV in November 2000 urged these activities:

* Exposing the extreme American identification with the occupation.
* Demand the shattering of the American monopoly and hegemony.
* Call upon Palestinian, Arab and Moslem masses to boycott American products and denounce its policies in the region.
* Call upon the Arab world to enter into confrontation with American interests using all possible means.

A Palestinian sermon carried on PNA TV on September 5, stated "...The Prophet Mohammed . was besieged by two powers, Persia in the east and Rome in the west. These represent the Soviet Union and America of today. Persia represents Russia in the east, and America stands for Rome in the west. Persia fell first in the east, just as Russia fell first in the east, and America will fall, may it be Allah's will, just as Rome fell in the west.

Some sources are below.
Ami Isseroff


Is it a "PA" or a "PLO"?
Ghassan Andoni October 16, 2003

The attack against the American envoy in northern Gaza exposed the
weaknesses that the Palestinian Authority worked hard to cover. The
scene of angry children throwing stones at U.S. investigators and
Palestinian police, who arrived at the site of the destroyed
vehicle, even when expected, was very embarrassing.

When Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei called for a serious effort to end
the "State of Chaos" in which an individual or a group of angry
children can decide the future of the nation, he was expressing
frustration and helplessness.

How did the PA, which demonstrated a high level of control in the
mid nineties, and even cracked down on powerful opposition
movements, arrived at such a state of chaos and lost its ability to
rule?

The basic idea of establishing an authority "under occupation" was
regularly disputed among different Palestinian groups. Some looked
at the PA as an interim needed arrangement to transform the
Palestinian Liberation Movement (PLO) into a national authority of a
sovereign state. Others criticized it as a confused structure that
can help disguise occupation and expressed concerns around the so
called "the authority security obligations".

With the collapse of both the trust between both sides and the peace
process, the basic character of the PA was again subject to
disputes, this time even within the PA itself.

As a diplomatic process was ongoing, the PA could envision itself as
a liberation movement and could legitimize fulfilling painful
security obligations as necessary steps to arrive at a free and
independent state. Yet, with the drastic collapse of diplomatic
efforts, the region was set in a severe crisis that required of the
PA to clearly define its basic character and role.

Much of the internal conflicts within the PA were in essence
representing a power struggle between the ones who kept the vision
of the PA being a sovereign national authority in formation and the
ones who looked at it as a leading party in the liberation process.

With so much pushing and pulling, the PA was frequently changing
stands and confusing both its enemies and allies. Fighting the
occupation and at the same time attempting to control resistance in
order to fulfill diplomatic obligations could not survive side to
side.

The PA leadership kept avoiding the need to make a choice, hoping
that the diplomatic process could be revived. Yet, by not taking a
clear stand the PA arrived at a stage were neither its existence
contributes to liberation efforts nor it enjoys the necessary level
of control to be able to act as a partner in diplomatic efforts.

Israeli governments contributed considerably to the current PA
dilemma. Targeting the PA and its security forces with continued
hostilities resulted in weakening the PA against other opposition
groups.

What was described by Israel as a pressure to force the PA to resume
responsibility and move against "militant groups", resulted in a
wounded PA, which is barely able to sustain its existence.

The Thursday attack against the American envoy in northern Gaza
presents a serious challenge to the PA. Regardless of who launched
the attack, it took place in an area which is supposedly within "PA
control", the target was not "the occupation", and it could have
devastating consequences on the PA international stand.

Israel and the U.S. and to a certain extent Europe are showing
little understanding if any to the PA's hard position, and are
pushing hard for it to act as a "sovereign" authority and fulfill
its security obligation towards "even the state that occupies its
land and oppresses its people". At the same time, opposition and
resistance groups are pushing for the PA to be transformed into a
liberation organization and fully engage in the fight against the
occupier.

The PA is not any more capable of holding the stick in the middle; a
choice of a specific role is becoming inevitable.



Israel dismisses arrests in Gaza bombing as imaginary

By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Agencies
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/350191.html

Israeli security sources Thursday dismissed arrests
made by Palestinian police in connection with the
deadly roadside bombing of a United States
diplomatic convoy in Gaza the day before, Army
Radio reported.



Palestinian security officials
said earlier that police
entered the Jabalya refugee
camp in the Gaza Strip
overnight, and arrested three
members of the militant Popular
Resistance Committees in
connection with the bombing, in
which three Americans were
killed.

But Israel rejected the claim, the radio said,
maintaining that the arrests were an imaginary
measure designed to placate the U.S., and that
there was no evidence to link the three to the
attack.

A massive remote-controlled bomb demolished an
armor-plated jeep in the convoy carrying U.S.
diplomatic personnel, including a cultural
envoy from the U.S. embassy, through the
northern Gaza Strip on their way to interview
potential Palestinian students who were
candidates for an academic Fulbright
scholarship. One other American was wounded.

The Popular Resistance Committees consists
largely of former Palestinian security
officials and disgruntled members of PA
Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, the
security officials said.

The group denied involvement in the attack, but
confirmed the arrests of three of its members,
one of whom was identified as Ahmed Saker, 25.

"We made clear to the Palestinian Authority we
had nothing to do with the bombing. We were
stunned by the unjustified arrests," a leader
of the movement.

Two more members of the group were being sought,
the PA security sources said.

"Yesterday, a few hours after the bombing...
Palestinian security forces detained three
people as part of the investigation conducted
by the Palestinian Authority into the
incident," a security official told Reuters in
Gaza.

Palestinian witnesses said that when Palestinian
police came to Block 8 of Jabalya to make
arrests, a gun fight erupted. There were no
reports of injuries.

Sources in Israel and in the PA had speculated
whether the Fatah splinter group was behind the
attack.

PA security officials: We warned U.S.
Senior PA security officials claimed Wednesday
that they had repeatedly warned U.S. officials
in the past months to change travel routines in
the territories, in order to avoid such an
attack.

The PA security officials said they warned
Americans that routine movements in GMC
vehicles that have diplomatic license plates
and conspicuous bodyguards could be dangerous.
Members of militant Palestinian opposition
groups could be collecting information about
routine movements of the U.S. vehicles and
personnel, the PA officials cautioned.

The officials said that they formulated such
warnings in very specific terms and relayed
them on a number of occasions, as in the case
of a meeting held three months ago with CIA
personnel in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Meanwhile, a team of FBI officials is expected
to arrive in Israel on Thursday to carry out an
investigation into the attack.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft described
the delegation as a "fly-away team" consisting
of investigators and forensic experts. FBI
officials said it would be a cooperative probe
involving Israel's police force.

The FBI agents do not intend to go into Gaza
immediately. Instead, they will rely on Israel
to collect and preserve evidence, with the FBI
doing the detailed examinations of what is
found, the officials said.

It was established Wednesday that American
personnel who coordinate the movements of U.S.
officials in the territories communicate travel
plans in advance to PA security officials,
sending the detailed information by fax or
telephone. Such reports spell out the names of
persons who are taking part in work trips in
the territories, the times when U.S. vehicles
are to be moving through various areas, and the
routes to be taken by the cars.

In view of this practice of relaying advance
information, some analysts speculated Wednesday
that the terrorists who perpetrated the attack
had advance knowledge of the U.S. convoy's
intention to cross into the village of Beit
Hanun.

At least a portion of the information attained
by the terrorists, the analysts hypothesized,
came from official PA sources.

The U.S. named the three victims of the first
deadly attack on American officials since the
start of the intifada as John Branchizio, 37,
from Texas; Mark Parson, 31, from New York; and
John Martin Linde, 30, from Missouri. The three
were on contract to the U.S. embassy in Tel
Aviv through the defense contracting company
Dyncorp, State Department spokesman Richard
Boucher said.

Bush: Terror compromises Palestinian statehood
U.S. President George W. Bush blamed Palestinian
authorities Wednesday for the deaths, saying
their failure to create security forces to
combat terrorism "continues to cost lives."

"Palestinian authorities should have acted long
ago to fight terror in all its forms," said the
president in a written statement. "There must
be an empowered prime minister who controls all
Palestinian forces - reforms that continue to
be blocked by Yasser Arafat."

"The failure to undertake these reforms and
dismantle the terrorist organizations
constitutes the greatest obstacle to achieving
the Palestinian people's dream of statehood,"
Bush said.

The European Union also took the Palestinians to
task, with the body's foreign policy chief
Javier Solana telling Arafat that
"condemnations and excuses will not do."

Arafat vowed to track down those responsible for
the attack, which he called a "dirty and
shameful" act.

Both Islamic Jihad and Hamas denied
responsibility for the attack, and there was no
immediate claim of responsibility for the
incident. Three months ago, a roadside bomb was
detonated beside an American convoy traveling
in the same area, but without injury.

The blast went off around 10:15 A.M. Wednesday
as the convoy drove near a gas station on the
outskirts of the town of Beit Lahiya in the
northern Gaza Strip, along the main north-south
road.

Witnesses at the scene said a silver Cherokee
jeep used by American diplomats was completely
destroyed by the blast. Parts of the vehicle
were strewn in a 30-meter radius around a
crater created by the explosion.

The explosion tore the car in half and left the
wreckage twisted with the tires up in the air.
An AP reporter saw a gray wire with an on-off
switch leading from the scene of the attack to
a small concrete room at the side of the road.

Soon after the blast, the IDF sent tanks and
armored vehicles under cover of a helicopter
gunship into the areas of Beit Hanoun and Beit
Lehiya to aid the Americans in evacuating the
wounded man and the bodies of the victims.

An IDF rescue helicopter evacuated the wounded
man to Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva.

U.S. investigators stoned by Palestinian youths

Later in the day, American security officials
investigating the bomb attack left the scene
abruptly after Palestinian youths threw stones
and rocks at them. The investigators were
taking pictures of the bloodied, twisted
remains of the van when some six children threw
stones and rocks at them, while several hundred
Palestinians looked on.

Palestinian police fired in the air to chase
away the stone throwers, and U.S. officials
rushed back their cars and sped off.
Palestinian police beat some people in the
crowd, while pushing the spectators back.

The IDF said the targeted jeep was the middle
vehicle of the convoy, which carried security
men and CIA personnel. A Palestinian security
van had preceded the convoy's three
armor-plated vehicles.

But the CIA spokesman in Washington, Bill
Harlow, refuted the reports that CIA officials
were in the convoy, saying that no members of
the organization were involved.

The American embassy in Tel Aviv said that
contrary to initial reports, U.S. special
Middle East envoy John Wolf was not in the
convoy. Wolf is responsible for monitoring
compliance with the road map peace plan.

Palestinian taxi driver Mohammed Radwan said he
was at a nearby gas station when the blast went
off.

"I was about to fill up my car with gas when I
saw the American convoy passing," Radwan said.
"There was a Palestinian police car in front
and then three big cars. When the third one
passed, an explosion went off."

"The first two cars drove quickly and stopped
far form the explosion. Palestinian security
people jumped out of the car and rushed to the
car that had blown up. When I tried to approach
them, they shouted at me to leave. I saw two
people covered with blood lying next to the
car."

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