debkafile Exclusive: Bush’s 1,500-strong Secret Service unit occupies Palestinian government center in Ramallah for his first visit

The US Secret Service virtually took over the Palestinian Authority’s seat of government in Ramallah, enforcing unheard-of security measures for President George W. Bush’s talks with Mahmoud Abbas and PM Salam Fayyad Thursday, Jan. 10. Compared with US-Israeli security cooperation for the president’s first day in Israel, the US force cut Palestinian security officials out of the loop. Armed with an amazing arsenal of hardware and electronics, they cordoned the Ramallah government center off with a one-kilometer deep “sterile zone” – closed even to the Palestinian presidential guard and the media, except for a pool. Abbas’ office furniture was replaced with American products.
US officers barred entry to the Palestinian government center except for persons appearing on their list, albeit minus bodyguards. Only Abbas and Fayyad will be allowed small personal contingents of listed guards.
Top-secret security measures were also enforced in Bethlehem ahead of the president’s visit to the Church of the Nativity.
The US president politely refused Abbas’ personal request to lay a wreath at Yasser Arafat’s Ramallah mausoleum because of his timetable.
Our military sources report that arrangements are in place on the West Bank to whisk the president out of harm’s way at zero notice if necessary.
A security official told debkafile: “This is Hamas’ and Jihad Islami’s big chance to get at a top American target and demonstrate their clout on the West Bank too. They are not alone. At least one faction of Abbas’ Fatah has also threatened the visit.”
In the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, angry mobs burned Bush banners and US flags Wednesday, called on West Bank leaders to arrest the US president as a terrorist and war criminal responsible for murdering their “Iraqi brethren,” and denounced Abbas and Fayyad as traitors and American stooges. More fury is expected to be poured out at Friday prayers in Palestinian mosques.

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