Thursday, April 12, 2007

Forces loyal to Abbas get newer bases, training

"JERICHO, West Bank (Reuters) - Forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are getting newer bases at home and more advanced training abroad for an expanded security role that could put them on a collision course with militants.

Abbas's call over the weekend for his security forces to help prevent rocket attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip opened a new rift with Hamas and exposed the policy differences that underlie their month-old coalition government.

Western and Palestinian officials said Abbas's goal was to create a Palestinian "gendarmerie," a force trained in military tactics that operates in civilian areas and is capable of carrying out police duties, restoring law and order, and enforcing any existing and future agreements with Israel.

In addition to basic training conducted at facilities in the West Bank city of Jericho and the Gaza Strip, about 500 men loyal to Abbas's Fatah faction recently crossed from Gaza into Egypt for more advanced instruction in police tactics, Western security officials said.

Hundreds of members of Abbas's presidential guard will take similar courses in the coming months at a facility in Jordan as part of a $59.4 million U.S. security program that received a green light from Congress this week......

Palestinian sources say Dahlan was personally coordinating the training programs and seeking additional assistance. A European Union police training program, largely frozen after Hamas came to power in March 2006, may be restarted with a focus on forces under Dahlan's control, European diplomats said......

"The main division between Abbas and Hamas is the mission of the security forces," said Mohammad Yaghi, a fellow at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy and a columnist for the Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.

"Hamas wants the security forces to be part of the national struggle with Israel. Abbas and Dahlan want the security forces to be part of implementing any agreement with Israel," he said.

Mouin Rabbani, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said Hamas may be nearing a strategic turning point......"


This Palestinian "unity" is like the unity of oil and water

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