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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 18:29 GMT
Arafat faces tide of frustration
Refugee camp
Anger is running high in the refugee camps
By Barbara Plett in Jerusalem

US envoys have arrived in the Middle East trying to secure the desperately elusive ceasefire between the Palestinians and Israelis.

A truce is the key element of Washington's effort to revive the peace process in the longer term. Washington's approach so far has been to push Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority to end the violence.

But that is just one of the challenges facing the Palestinian Leader, whose authority is being threatened by pressures from all sides.


The people here are very angry at the Palestinian Authority; we are just waiting for it to make a small mistake and then we will rebel

Palestinian demonstrator

People in Gaza are beginning to vent their anger on the Palestinian Authority as their situation grows desperate.

Many are furious about what they see as corrupt officials who have not suffered in the Intifada, and seem unable to help those who have.

Power is shifting to the new heroes of the Palestinian uprising - the popular resistance, a loose coalition of grassroots militias including Islamic militant group Hamas as well as Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

Militants' free hand

Despite intense international pressure on Mr Arafat to either rein in or arrest them, the militants are vowing to continue fighting against Israeli occupation.

Portrait of Yasser Arafat
Some Palestinians are questioning their leader's role

Mr Arafat has tried, but without much success. In several cases large hostile crowds have blocked his security forces from acting.

Israeli actions have done nothing to ease the pressure on Mr. Arafat.

Since 11 September the Israeli army has invaded large swathes of land. Amnesty International says it has killed more than 150 Palestinians.

The government justifies such action as defence against attack.

But many Palestinians see this as a deliberate attempt to undermine Yasser Arafat's leadership.

Anger

At the central refugee camp of Khan Younis where 30 houses have been recently demolished or damaged by Israeli tanks, an angry mob confronts a Palestinian security officer.

Wreckage after Israeli raid in Gaza
Israel has stepped up raids since 11 September

"The situation is very bad for all the people here, they are facing aggression from the Israelis policy, and the military actions against them," says a Palestinian security official.

However, many within the crowd appear to have a different opinion.

"The people here are very angry at the Palestinian Authority. We are just waiting for it to make a small mistake and then we will rebel," says one man.

"The members of the Authority want only power and positions, so they do what Israel says. Israel would never have accepted a Palestinian leadership that might resist it," he adds.

Arafat under pressure

Yasser Arafat is being squeezed on all sides with no sign of escape - and he didn't get the lifeline he was hoping for from America's newly announced Middle East vision.

The plan does not offer the immediate changes on the ground he needs to enforce a cease fire.

As long as Israeli tanks enter places like Rafah, the Palestinian Leader will have trouble deflecting the frustrations of victims like Mohammed Gishti.

I asked Mr Gishti whether Mr Arafat loves his people as much as he does the Palestinian Authority:

"Yes, he loves his Palestinian people, he loves them, but everything has some exceptions," he says, laughing.


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21 Nov 01 | Middle East
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26 Nov 01 | Media reports
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