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Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 07:51 GMT 08:51 UK
Uncertainty over Palestinian sackings
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Arafat is trying to meet demands for reform from all sides
Uncertainty still surrounds the situation of two of the most powerful security officials in the Palestinian administration after it was announced by officials that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had sacked them.

The head of preventive security in the West Bank, Jibril Rajoub, had initially insisted to the BBC he would not step down, but now says he will go if he receives a written order sacking him.

Jibril Rajoub, former preventative security chief in the West Bank
Rajoub may represent a serious challenge to Arafat's leadership
The second man, the police commander in the Gaza Strip, Ghazi Jabali, has refused to leave his post.

There has been no clarification from the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has not apparently issued a formal order on the sackings.

It was announced on Tuesday that the two were being demoted.

This was widely seen as Mr Arafat's response to international demands for tougher action against Palestinian militants and Palestinian demands for reform of his administration.

Palestinian disarray

BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says the affair is a further sign of disarray within Palestinian ranks.

Yasser Arafat with award for Police chief Ghazi Jabali
By sacking Jabali (right) and others, Arafat hopes to ward off international criticism
Mr Arafat is struggling to recover from the body blow he suffered last week at the hands of US President George W Bush who last week made a blunt call for a new Palestinian leadership.

Mr Rajoub and Mr Arafat have had some well publicised rows. During one, in February 2002, Mr Arafat is reported to have drawn his gun.

Mahmoud Abu Marzuk, the head of Palestinian civil defence, was also sacked on Tuesday.

Reform process

The sackings are being seen by Palestinians as Yasser Arafat's attempt to win international support, and shore up his own position as leader.

He has embarked on a 100-day reform programme for the PA's security services, judiciary and financial institutions.

President Bush said last week that no move would be made towards creating a Palestinian state unless there was extensive reform of the PA, which is widely seen as corrupt and inefficient.

The US administration has also said that it will no longer work with Mr Arafat, and that Washington's support for a Palestinian state is contingent on Palestinians electing a new leadership that does not include him.

Pressure for change in the make-up of the PA has also been growing among Palestinians.

In Gaza, earlier this week, thousands took to the streets to express anger at the failure of the PA to improve living conditions.

And on Wednesday, Palestinian police in Rafah clashed with supporters of Hamas who were calling for the execution of an alleged collaborator with Israel.

At least 18 people were injured in the unrest, when protesters pelted a police station with stones and home-made explosives, and police responded with gunfire.

The BBC's Claire Marshall
"A huge challenge to Yasser Arafat"
West Bank head of security Jibril Rajoub
"I am an obedient officer"
Palestinian minister Nabil Shaath
"A question of miscommunication"

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See also:

03 Jul 02 | Middle East
13 Feb 02 | Middle East
25 Mar 02 | Middle East
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