- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2006

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Several Fatah officials called on President Mahmoud Abbas to resign and dissolve the Palestinian Authority to protest Israel’s raid of a West Bank prison earlier this week, party activists said yesterday.

The raid, in which Israel seized six top militants, was seen as a humiliating blow to Mr. Abbas’ prestige and raised new questions in his Fatah Party about their president’s ability to govern, especially following Hamas’ landslide victory in a January parliamentary election.

If the Palestinian Authority is dissolved, Israel — as occupier of the West Bank and Gaza Strip — would be forced to assume responsibility for the 3 million Palestinians living there. The dissolution also would render Hamas’ election victory irrelevant.

In violence yesterday, Israeli soldiers fatally shot a 10-year-old girl during an operation in the West Bank village of Yamoun, the girl’s father, Abdul Rahman Zaed, said. The girl was in a car with her uncle, who was shot in the head and arrested, Mr. Zaed said.

The army, engaged in a fierce gunbattle with militants in Yamoun, surrounded a house in which three militants were holed up and called on them to surrender, Palestinian security officials said. Later, a 13-year-old boy was wounded in the fighting, officials said.

The call for Mr. Abbas’ resignation and the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority at the Fatah Central Committee late Thursday was the first time such a demand was made.

Analysts and Fatah officials said the demands — raised both in a letter to Mr. Abbas signed by five midlevel Fatah activists and at Thursday’s meeting by a senior party official — are not serious at the moment.

However, the idea could gain momentum if a resumption of peace talks becomes increasingly unlikely and the economic situation deteriorates further, said Ghassan Khatib, the outgoing Palestinian planning minister.

Taysir Nasrallah, a Fatah official from the West Bank city of Nablus who signed the letter, said Israel’s prison raid showed the Palestinian Authority was useless.

“Israel should pay a heavy price for occupying the Palestinian Authority,” Mr. Nasrallah told the Associated Press.

In Thursday’s meeting of the Fatah Central Committee, one of the members, Tayeb Abdel Rahim, opened the session by demanding that Mr. Abbas resign and dissolve the Palestinian Authority, a participant said. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press about the closed-door session.

The official quoted Mr. Abdel Rahim as saying that the Palestinian Authority is unable to solve Palestinian problems and that it is “time for us to leave.”

During a tour of the demolished prison in Jericho a day after Israel’s raid, Mr. Abbas rejected the idea that he would resign and dissolve the Palestinian Authority.

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