Vol. 5 Num 67 Mon. August 02, 2004  

Palestinian leaders warn
West Bank on verge of unprecedented chaos

Palestinian leaders warned the West Bank was on the verge of unprecedented chaos, as thousands of demonstrators showed their support yesterday for militants who attacked the offices here of the security services and the local governor.

Prime minister Ahmed Qorei said it was vital that the Palestinians unite to prevent the same kind of chaos seen last month in the Gaza Strip last month, which led him to submit his resignation, from spreading to the West Bank.

"We, the Palestinian people, must stand united in condemning this chaos in the same manner that we deterred the chaos that took place in Gaza," he said in an interview published in Sunday's Al-Quds daily.

"If this chaos reaches the West Bank, then we will be on the verge of an unprecedented and unacceptable disaster."

However in a fresh challenge to the Palestinian Authority, around 5,000 people took to the streets of Jenin, in the northern West Bank, in support of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades after its followers torched the local offices of the security services and the district governor over the weekend.

Dozens of fighters fired off rounds of gunfire into the air, pledging support for the powerful local leader of the Brigades, Zakaria Zubeidi.

"Anyone touches him (Zubeidi), we will kill him. Anyone who touches him is a collaborator," the crowd chanted in unison.

Zubeidi justified Saturday's arson attack on the security services by charging its officers were "cooperating" with Israel's Shin Beth domestic intelligence service to wipe out members of his organisation.

Television footage broadcast over the weekend also showed Al-Aqsa militants, their faces uncovered, ransacking the offices of the governor Qaddura Musa and tearing down portraits of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from the walls to throw them in the fire.

Al-Aqsa has traditionally been loyal to Arafat but has become increasingly frustrated at what it sees as widespread corruption within both the Palestinian Authority and Arafat's Fatah movement.

While some of the gunmen in Sunday's march masked their faces with scarves bearing the image of the famed Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, others made no attempt to disguise their identity.

Palestinians, foreigners and Israelis from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) hold a banner during their march along the path of the Israeli "security" barrier near the West Bank village of Umm Dar yesterday. The march, which began July 30 in Jenin area, will pass through cities, towns and villages affected by the barrier all the way to Jerusalem till August 19. PHOTO: AFP