Palestinian wrath grows against Arafat

RAMALLAH, West Bank – Militants sacked and burned Palestinian government offices Sunday, the latest sign of growing anger over Yasser Arafat’s decision to reach into his old guard and choose a loyalist relative as his new security chief.

A confrontation was brewing between Arafat – reluctant to yield significant power – and Palestinian militants, including some of Arafat’s own officers. They are demanding deep reforms and new faces, Palestinian analysts said.

The divide between the two sides centered on the appointment of Moussa Arafat, Arafat’s cousin, as the new head of Palestinian security. Many Palestinians rejected him as a symbol of corruption and cronyism, propelling long-held dissatisfaction into the open.

Dozens of masked gunmen marched through the Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza after sundown Sunday, chanting, “No to Moussa Arafat, yes to reform.”

In the Rafah refugee camp, gunmen exchanged fire with guards at preventive security headquarters and attempted to break into the complex with a bulldozer. The guards wounded three attackers, but there were no casualties to the security forces, personnel at the building said.

Arafat again on Sunday rejected the Saturday resignation of the prime minister of the Palestinian government, Ahmed Qureia, who quit in frustration over his inability to effect change.

The future of the Palestinian government may become clearer following a Cabinet meeting scheduled today. One possibility is that Arafat might allow Qureia to form a new Cabinet by shedding members the prime minister sees as obstructions to reforms he has sought unsuccessfully to make.

Hani Hassan, a close Arafat ally, said Qureia had been invited to suggest names for a new Cabinet.

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