- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

From combined dispatches

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Yasser Arafat appointed a senior official from the ruling Fatah party as acting security chief, an official said yesterday, a new blow to Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia.

Meanwhile, U.N. officials said Israels three-day military operation in a Gaza Strip refugee camp left 1,240 Palestinians homeless, the largest demolition of houses in a Gaza raid in three years of fighting.

Dozens of Israeli tanks entered the Rafah refugee camp on the Gaza-Egypt border before dawn today in a new invasion. Israeli military sources told the Associated Press that it was a continuation of a three-day mission that began Friday.

Earlier, Mr. Arafat appointed Hakam Balawi to the security post, a Palestinian official told the AP on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Qureia, who had supported another candidate, has told Fatah he wants to quit once the term of his temporary government expires in about three weeks because of sharp disagreements with Mr. Arafat. However, with the deadline three weeks off, there is still time to settle the differences, Palestinian officials said.

In Rafah, masked gunmen vowed revenge yesterday at a rally staged amid the rubble of the Gaza Strip refugee camp devastated in the Israeli raid, as Israeli tanks patrolled nearby.

“Dear Qassam, bomb Tel Aviv,” about 1,000 demonstrators in the Rafah camp chanted, referring to the Hamas military wing. Several gunmen wore the Islamic groups colors and mock bomb belts.

As Rafah workers struggled to restore power after the raid, Mr. Qureia convened his emergency Cabinet in the West Bank amid international concern over divisions in the Palestinian leadership.

Tit-for-tat violence and Palestinian political infighting have combined to stall a U.S.-backed “road map” charting the path to peace and creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

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