At the March 1 London Conference for the Support of Palestinian Reforms, a Palestinian state ruled by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was discussed as though nothing could now stop its realization. This certainty was the main burden of the speeches delivered by the host British prime minister Tony Blair, Abbas himself, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, UN secretary Kofi Annan, and European Union executive Javier Solana.
The future state was generously endowed with $1.2 bn by supportive donor states.
A prominent participant at the conference was Lt. General William Ward, whose mission Rice defined with exceptional emphasis as being to lead the effort to reform and retrain Palestinian security services, including the merger of 13 disparate forces into three main branches. His group will include British, Egyptian and Jordanian security officials.
Ward’s first, second, third and fourth job, Rice stressed, will be to coordinate help for Palestinians to create a force answerable to one voice and one government.
As the secretary of state spoke, an unnoticed happening was unfolding in the West Bank town of Jenin, 5,000 miles to the east, one that hangs a large question mark over the conference’s primary presumption, Abu Mazen’s authority to lead his people at all, much less all the way to independence.
What happened was that his new interior minister General Nasser Yousef went to the West Bank town of Jenin to inspect security arrangements there. No sooner had he stepped out of his armored car in the town center, when gunshots were fired over his head. He lost no time in driving off.
The general was picked for the job with authority over all Palestinian security arms because he spoke out against terrorism during Arafat’s reign. He was also one of the few security officers untainted by corruption. He was therefore considered well qualified to carry forward a broad reform program for the Palestinian security and intelligence apparatus.
Revolt is spreading through northern West Bank
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror and Palestinians sources have since learned that Yousef was not the gunmen’s real target; they were aiming symbolically at Abu Mazen himself and even more at his new senior minister, Mohammed Dahlan, one of the strongmen of the Gaza Strip. The attack exposed an evolving situation which no one talked about at the London conference, namely that ever since the third week of February, Palestinian terrorist organizations in the northern half of the West Bank are in revolt against Abbas’ rule and this uprising is spreading. (See attached DEBKA Special Map)
According to our sources, some 4,000 terrorists are up in arms, many of them members of the al Aqsa Brigades of Abbas’ own Fatah, Hamas, Jihad Islami and the radical Palestinian Fronts in the key towns of Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm and Qalqilya.
Neither Abbas nor any of his ministers dare set foot in these West Bank rebel bastions.
The rebels have no personal quarrel with Abu Mazen, whom they regard as a weak vessel. Their objective is to set up a continuous enclave that they control, much like the areas under Hamas domination in the Gaza Strip. There, Hamas rules the north and shares dominance of the south with al Aqsa Brigades and the Popular Resistance Committees in Rafah, Khan Younes and Deir al Balakh.
The rebels believe that if their essentially terrorist movement attains control of a major segment of the West Bank and large parts of the Gaza Strip, they will be strong enough to paralyze Abbas’ government, put a stop to his peace moves with Israel, and above all, prevent the entry of British, American, Jordanian and Egyptian security units led by General Ward. This will put paid to any plans to bring them under a “reform” regime.
Our Palestinian sources stress that Hamas was persuaded to reduce its terrorist attacks, especially its Qassam missile and mortar barrages, by a promise from Abu Mazen not to permit these alien forces, especially Americans, set foot in the Gaza Strip.
Wires pulled by Hizballah with Tehran‘s approval
Now the terrorist-rebels want to extract a comparable pledge from Abbas with regard to the West Bank. In its determination to scotch any international action to reform their terrorist infrastructure, the Palestinian anti-Abbas revolt is backed to the hilt by the Hizballah and Tehran.
These two forces also pulled the wires behind the February 25 suicide bombing that killed five Israelis outside The Stage night club on the Tel Aviv seafront – not Jihad Islami as Israeli spokesmen echoed by the US secretary of state have insisted. The Palestinians were likewise put up to their rebellion for the establishment of two independent Palestinian military enclaves by Hizballah with Iranian approval.
A shady Palestinian terror master called Ibrahim Shehade is thought to be the clandestine commander of the two enclaves and designer of the new round of terrorist operations. He flits under cover between Beirut and Damascus but gets his orders from the Hizballah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah or directly from Tehran – not Damascus.
For the coming terrorist offensive, he and the Palestinian rebels have set up new frameworks on the West Bank that have roped in all the Palestinian organizations, organized a large number of suicide bombers, exploding belts, bomb cars and for the first time Qassam missiles like the weapons inflicted for months from the Gaza Strip on the Israeli town of Sderot. One missile was discovered in Jenin this week ready for testing against Israel’s largest towns.
The Palestinian revolt in the northern West Bank has been kept dark by Washington, Jerusalem and Ramallah. Because the general public in the West and even in Israel is unaware of what is afoot, Israeli special units could quietly go into action in Palestinian rebel country on Sunday, February 27 on counter-terror operations. These units are still operating in Palestinian towns.