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Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 21:59 GMT 22:59 UK
Arafat ditches security chief
Jibril Rajoub
Jibril Rajoub has been summoned to see Mr Arafat
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has replaced his head of West Bank security, ending two days of confusion and speculation.

The Governor of Jenin, Zuhair al-Manasreh has told reporters in Ramallah that he has been formally appointed as the new security chief in the West Bank.

The outgoing security chief, Jibril Rajoub, was reported to have been summoned to meet Mr Arafat on Thursday night at the Palestinian leader's compound in Ramallah.

Ghazi Jabali
Ghazi Jabali has resigned after reports that he had been sacked
Reports say Mr Rajoub, who is considered a contender to succeed the 73-year-old Mr Arafat, is to be offered Mr al-Manasreh's old job in Jenin. This is widely seen as a significant demotion.

Mr Rajoub had earlier denied reports that he had been sacked, but said he would go if his dismissal was formally confirmed.

In another twist, Gaza police chief General Ghazi Jabali - also said to have been sacked by Mr Arafat on Tuesday - has resigned, officials said on Thursday.

Mr Jabali is reported to be planning a challenge to Mr Arafat in leadership elections next January.

The BBC's Middle East analyst, Roger Hardy, says the sackings - and the ensuing confusion - reflect turmoil in the Palestinian Authority, as Mr Arafat responds to international criticism of his leadership and calls by the US for him to be replaced.

Gaza explosion

Israel eased its day-time curfews on West Bank towns and cities on Thursday but showed no sign of withdrawing its forces.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has indicated that Israeli forces would continue to target militants.

In another development, two people died in a car explosion in Gaza City late on Thursday.

Reports say a local leader of the militant al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Jihad al-Omarayn, was killed along with a lieutenant in the Palestinian security forces.

Palestinian officials, quoted by the Associated Press news agency, said they suspected Israeli agents of having planted a car bomb.

Te blast near the Shati refugee camp, left the vehicle a mangled wreck.

There has been no word from the Israelis.

Correspondents say Israeli forces have killed at least 60 Palestinian militants in what they call "targeted killings" since the intifada began 21 months ago.

Past disagreements

Mr Rajoub was served with his dismissal papers on Thursday, according to a Palestinian official quoted by Reuters news agency.

The official said Mr Arafat had decided on Wednesday to swap Mr Rajoub's job with that of Mr al-Manasreh.

Wreck of car in Gaza City
The bomb destroyed the car in Gaza
According to reports, Mr Rajoub is unhappy with the way he has been removed, describing it as "disrespectful".

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.

News agencies are quoting an unnamed police official in Gaza as saying that Mr Jabali "had decided to resign from his post to prepare himself to run for the upcoming presidential election".

Mr Jabali has not come out and declared his challenge to Mr Arafat.

The French AFP news agency says Mr Jabali is to be made police adviser, although it is not clear what the job entails. Mr Jabali's deputy, Salim al-Bardini, is to run the police department in the interim, the report says.

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

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
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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03 Jul 02 | Middle East
13 Feb 02 | Middle East
25 Mar 02 | Middle East
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