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profiles Tuesday, 17 October, 2000, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Tanzim: Shock troops of the uprising
Tamzin demo in Ramallah against Sharma-el-Sheikh talks
The Tanzim support Mr Arafat but opposed talks in Egypt
By Nick Childs in Jerusalem

One of the key Israeli demands for an end to the current violence has been the disarming of the Tanzim.

According to the Israelis this is an organised Palestinian militia associated with the mainstream Fatah group of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.

And they contend that these forces are led and organised chiefly by the head of Fatah on the West Bank, Marwan Barghouti.

But others are not so sure.

Certainly, throughout the flare-up in violence, the Israelis have insisted that they have been facing not just stone-throwing Palestinian youths, but a much deadlier threat - the Tanzim.

Armed and angry

It is a fact that there are armed Palestinian militias in the West Bank and Gaza. But just how organised they are is another matter.

Definite facts about the Tanzim are few and far between.

Tanzim is Arabic for organisation.

Tamzin demo
The Tanzim have a burning anger against Israel

And some sceptics believe that the Tanzim are little more than organised and active members of the Fatah movement who have developed into a loose collection of militias, not directly controlled by Fatah, let alone Yasser Arafat, but at least owing a loose loyalty to him.

Much does depend on a terminology. Fatah has had its own militias in the past, and still does. During the intifada there were the Fatah Hawks.

The Tanzim may be a new incarnation of these groups.

Certainly, on the streets of Ramallah in the West Bank on Monday, armed Palestinians paraded under the banner of the Fatah Hawks in opposition to any deal ending the violence.

Difficulties

It's not just the Israeli security forces who believe the Tanzim are part of a definite hierarchy within Fatah.

And, however well-organised or not they may be at the moment, this is a dynamic situation.

Last week, a call was issued in the name of Fatah for the mobilisation of the Palestinian people.

And the Israeli defence forces have been bracing themselves, if this confrontation escalates, for what would in effect be a full-scale guerrilla war.

Whatever the details of the agreement reached in Sharm el-Sheikh, it would be enormously difficult - politically and practically - for Yasser Arafat to disarm the militias completely.

Apart from anything else, the territories are awash with guns. It'll certainly be a key test for Mr Arafat whether or not he can rein in the radical gunmen, many of whom are bitterly opposed to any form of accommodation now with Israel.


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17 Oct 00 | Middle East
16 Oct 00 | Middle East
14 Oct 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
16 Oct 00 | Middle East
17 Oct 00 | Middle East
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