Hamas police arrest aide to Palestinian prime minister

Abbas denounces move as `criminal,' `kidnapping'

December 15, 2007|By New York Times News Service.

JERUSALEM -- Hamas police in Gaza arrested an aide to the Ramallah-based Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, yesterday, holding the aide for questioning, a Hamas spokesman said.

The aide, Omar al-Ghul, 56, is a political adviser on Gaza to Fayyad, who was appointed prime minister by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after Hamas took over Gaza in fighting last June. Ghul returned to Gaza from Ramallah to attend the funeral of his mother-in-law, and the Hamas police came to arrest him about 1:30 a.m., according to his son, Nadir al-Ghul, who is in Ramallah.

Abbas, through a spokesman, called the arrest a "kidnapping" and a "criminal and dangerous act adding to the long list of crimes committed daily by Hamas in the Gaza Strip." Fayyad's information minister, Riyad al-Malki, blamed "criminals working for Hamas" and called for Ghul's immediate release.

Ihab al-Ghussain, a spokesman for the Hamas Interior Ministry, said that Ghul was "arrested for violating the law after a government decision to do so."

He refused to specify the allegations but said Ghul was not likely to be released yesterday.

Palestinians from the rival Fatah faction suggested that Hamas would question him about Fayyad's plans and personnel. Two weeks ago, Palestinians said, Ghul appeared on television and said that he did not consider Hamas to be a part of the Palestinian people because of the violent takeover of Gaza.

Today, on the 20th anniversary of the founding of Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the government plans a major rally, and Hamas members went through Gaza City yesterday removing yellow Fatah flags and putting up the green flags of Hamas.

Abbas was in Jordan on his way to Paris to attend a pledging conference of countries to aid the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.

Fayyad, an independent economist, is seeking $5.6 billion over three years in aid to help reform the Palestinian Authority.

But Fayyad has no political authority over Gaza; he was appointed after Abbas fired the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniya, who is Gaza-based.

Separately yesterday, four Palestinians died and 35 were injured in Gaza when a grenade went off during the funeral for a taxi driver, Nasser al-Masaari, who died in an Israeli airstrike late Thursday night, said doctors at Gaza's Al Shifa Hospital.

The driver was among three who died, including a member of Islamic Jihad who was the target of the strike and got into the taxi.

The driver was adopted by the Fatah movement, which arranged his funeral. As marchers fired guns into the air, one man's grenade went off, apparently accidentally.

The Israeli strike followed another Qassam rocket barrage from Gaza at the Israeli town of Sderot, near the border. One rocket went through the roof of a house Thursday, moderately wounding a 40-year-old woman inside.

The rocketing of Sderot started before Israel withdrew from Gaza in August 2005 and has continued despite political truces, military incursions and airstrikes.

The mayor of Sderot, Eli Moyal, voicing frustration with the government's inability to defend his town, quit his job live on the radio Wednesday after a rocket barrage, but Defense Minister Ehud Barak convinced Moyal to rescind his resignation.

Yesterday, the Israeli Cabinet declared a "special situation" in Sderot and other towns bordering Gaza, allowing the army to take a larger role and permitting faster compensation for victims.

"It is unreasonable to start the morning with eight Qassams," Moyal said. "I am not willing to take this responsibility. I was chosen to manage a city, and not this situation."

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