- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 6, 2002

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip Mourners fired assault rifles into the air and demanded revenge yesterday after a car bomb killed a militia leader and a member of the security forces in what Palestinians say was the latest Israeli attack on prominent militants.

About 15,000 people marched in a funeral procession alongside the flag-draped bodies of Jihad Amerin, 48, the Gaza leader of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militia affiliated with Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization, and Nael Namera, 27, a security-forces lieutenant.

"This is another crime against the leaders of the Palestinian people," said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, an adviser to Mr. Arafat.

Young men lifted AK-47 rifles into the air while children, wearing Brigade headbands, held up pictures of Mr. Amerin and Mr. Namera. Mr. Amerin had resigned from the Palestinian security forces about nine months ago, frustrated by Mr. Arafat's calls for an end to attacks on Israel. He then became the militia's leader in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, Mr. Arafat consulted with his security officers, trying to smooth a rift over his ouster of Jibril Rajoub from a key West Bank security position.

Mr. Arafat has been under Israeli and U.S. pressure to restructure his competing and overlapping security forces and direct them to stop terror attacks against Israel. Mr. Arafat appointed Jenin Gov. Zuhair Manasra to replace Mr. Rajoub and offered the Jenin municipal post to Mr. Rajoub.

Mr. Rajoub refused the job, and some preventive security officers were threatening not to work under the new commander, raising speculation the force the strongest security branch in the West Bank might be disbanded.

A senior Palestinian official said preventive security officers were meeting with Mr. Arafat to discuss the shake-up.

Mr. Rajoub has been mentioned as a possible Arafat successor and has had close ties with Israeli officials, who say he is one of the few leaders not linked directly to terror attacks. So far, however, he has pledged his loyalty to Mr. Arafat. He also lost face among many Palestinians and outraged Islamic extremists for surrendering his compound and Palestinian militants jailed inside to Israeli forces in April during their campaign to crush militias behind deadly attacks on Israel.

Israeli forces yesterday arrested 19 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza who were "suspected of terrorist activity." The army said three of the suspects were picked up in Jericho, the only one of the eight main Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank not taken over by Israel in the past two weeks.

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