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Arafat announces security shake-up amid turmoil

Prime Minister Qorei's resignation offer refused

Ahmed Qorei, who has announced his resignation, attended an emergency Cabinet session Saturday.
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Chaos in Gaza prompts Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei to offer resignation
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Yasser Arafat vowed to reorganize the Palestinian Authority's security setup Saturday amid turmoil that included the offered resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei.

Hundreds of members of Arafat's Fatah movement demonstrated against the security restructuring.

Also Saturday, a state of emergency was declared in Gaza, where militants carried out three separate abductions Friday before releasing the captives in exchange for having their demands addressed.

In his resignation letter, Qorei cited failed peace efforts and "a state of chaos" in areas where the authority should maintain peace.

Arafat, the Palestinian Authority president, has urged Qorei to stay in his post.

"The prime minister has the full right to resign or continue his work," Arafat spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh told reporters. "But he has the full confidence of President Arafat. So far, President Arafat urged him to continue in his job for the benefit of the Palestinian people."

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said the majority of Qorei's Cabinet asked him to withdraw the resignation. They argued that his departure would add to the chaos.

After an emergency session with his Cabinet, Qorei told reporters, "The government is constantly meeting, there is a crisis, there is a state of chaos in the security situation."

Erakat echoed those comments.

"Deliberations are going on at all levels. And I hope we can exert every possible effort in order to deal with the problems facing our society," Erakat said. "We have seen a grave deterioration in the Gaza Strip, lawlessness, and we hope the rule of law can be re-established using a series of comprehensive steps."

Qorei has been prime minister since September 2003, when the first Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, resigned after four months on the job. Abbas complained he could not take necessary steps because Arafat would not cede control over security or finances.

Qorei's resignation cited three chief reasons for the move: failed efforts to revive the peace process with Israel; increased poverty among Palestinians, which the Palestinian Authority has failed to counteract; and continued lawlessness and chaos in areas overseen by the authority.

When Cabinet members were originally appointed, fighting the lawlessness was the top item on their agenda.

Security shake-up

A meeting between Arafat and national security officials was scheduled for Sunday, and another Cabinet meeting was scheduled for Monday.

Part of the agenda is to discuss a promise Arafat made Saturday to consolidate more than 12 security agencies into three -- national security, armed forces and police.

Arafat also announced he was replacing the head of national security, Abdel Razzek al-Majeida, with Musa Arafat -- the Palestinian leader's cousin, who also heads military intelligence.

That announcement sparked heated protests Saturday.

Leaders of Fatah in southern Gaza resigned in protest, and hundreds of Fatah members took to the streets, chanting "Say no to Musa Arafat."

The demonstrators distributed a leaflet saying "don't replace corruption with more corruption."

Musa Arafat told reporters, "I will do my utmost to change things with the help of my colleagues in order to have a stable and secure homeland."

Arafat also replaced police chief Ghazi al-Jabali with Saeb el-Ajez on Saturday, hours after al-Jabali was released by captors who demanded that he be fired.

The Jenin Brigades -- which has links to Fatah and also to an umbrella group of militants called the Popular Resistance Committee -- claimed responsibility for kidnapping al-Jabali in Gaza City.

A spokesman said the group was assured al-Jabali would be removed from his post within 72 hours, and that he would be investigated on allegations of embezzlement and corruption.

Kidnappers to present demands

Shortly after al-Jabali was abducted, Khalid Abu al-Ola, head of the district coordination office at the Khan Yunis refugee camp, was kidnapped by Palestinians who said they wanted to be hired by the Palestinian Authority security apparatus but that al-Ola was hiring only his relatives.

The group Abu al Reesh claimed responsibility for kidnapping al-Ola.

The same group also claimed responsibility for abducting four French nationals and a Palestinian who were working to restore electricity at Khan Yunis. They were taken to the office of the Red Crescent at the camp, Palestinian security sources said.

"We want to bring European attention to the crisis of the Palestinian people and the demolition of Palestinian houses," said Abu Haroun, who said he is a member of Abu al Reesh.

Abu al Reesh released all of its captives Saturday after its members were told they could present a list of demands to Arafat by phone, Palestinian security sources said.

The group released a statement saying it would demand an end to corruption within the Palestinian Authority; a pledge to place the right people in the right positions; the establishment of a fair judicial system; and monthly payments to families of Palestinians killed or held prisoner by Israel.

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