Palestinian security forces close weapons tunnels, deploy to prevent firing of rockets towards Israel
Palestinian security forces on Saturday night started to take initial steps against armed factions in the Gaza Strip following massive pressure from the U.S. on top Palestinian leaders this weekend.
The Palestinian Preventive Security Apparatus on Saturday night uncovered three tunnels in the border town of Rafah.
A Palestinian security official said that forces led by Security Affairs Minister Mohammed Dahlan had closed three tunnels used to smuggle weapons and drugs from Egypt into the Gaza Strip. Residents in the town of Rafah reported seeing a flurry of police activity at houses believed to be hiding entrances to tunnels that snake their way under the border into Egyptian territory. Thirteen suspects were arrested during the Gaza raids, police said. Palestinian security officials said at least 12 of them were arrested for smuggling weapons.
Palestinian legislator Saeb Erekat said the closing of the tunnels reflects the Palestinian Authority's determination to enforce the law. "The obstacle to this (move) now is the Israeli policy of incursions, assassinations, building walls and noncompliance with the road map," he said, according to the AP.
In the northern Gaza Strip, several dozen policemen were deployed in a bid to prevent further firing of home-made Qassam rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot. Palestinian sources reported that there had been an exchange of fire between PA security forces and Hamas activists.
In a political development, the central committee of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement nominated longtime Arafat aide Lt. Gen. Nasser Yousef for the post of interior minister, said Hany Al-Hassan, one of 12 committee members.
The interior minister has broad responsibility for security matters, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who currently holds the role, asked Dahlan to assume some of those duties.
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)