May 13, 2003
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has provided safe haven for an
insurgency cell that has staged a series of attacks on Israeli motorists in the
Israeli officials said Arafat has financed and approved the attacks by a cell
composed of his bodyguards and members of PA security forces. They said the
cell was responsible for the shooting death of an Israeli on Sunday northeast of
Ramallah near the Israeli community of Ofra and during the visit by U.S.
Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The cell was said to belong to the Arafat-sponsored Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade
and has been based in Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah, officials said. They
said the cell killed the Israeli on Sunday in an ambush and returned to Arafat’s
office to avoid Israeli capture.
Last year, Israel maintained a siege of Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah for
several months. Amid heavy international pressure, Israel lifted the siege but
has not permitted Arafat to leave the area.Officials said 17 Palestinian
insurgents wanted by Israel have been given safe haven in Arafat’s offices.
They include members of his Force 17 praetorian guard and Military
Intelligence, the latter headed by the PA chairman’s nephew, Mussa Arafat.
“The terrorist activity of all operatives from the Mukata’a is carried out with the knowledge and approval of chairman
Arafat,” an Israeli official said.
Officials said Arafat has ordered new attacks on Israelis in an effort to
undermine the authority of new Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas has
called for a dismantling of Palestinian insurgency groups but officials said he
does not intend to confront them.