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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 July, 2004, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Analysis: Gaza power struggle
By Alan Johnston
BBC correspondent, Gaza

Masked gunmen at the Red Cross offices in Khan Yunis
Militants want to consolidate their power

The crisis in Gaza has come at a time when the Palestinian Authority was anyway under huge pressure.

There have been growing calls for sweeping reform from both the international community and from powerful elements within Palestinian society.

The day of kidnappings in Gaza convinced Yasser Arafat that it was time to act.

He has announced an overhaul of the Authority's security structure. Eight agencies will be slimmed down to just three.

It is an important step - but will it satisfy those who have been pressing for change?

Loyalists in charge

They have wanted the security agencies to be answerable to someone in the government other than Mr Arafat.

But there is no indication that he has been ready to go that far.

Some analysts feel that the kidnappings were a show of strength by militant groups
At the same time, he has given two powerful jobs to figures who are seen very much as Arafat loyalists.

Asked for his reaction, one of the militants behind the kidnappings in Gaza said that the Palestinian Authority could not carry on being monopolised by Mr Arafat in this way.

Militants or reformers?

Everyone here agrees that the current tensions are linked to Israel's plans to end its occupation of Gaza.

If the withdrawal goes ahead, it will put Palestinians in sole charge of Gaza for the first time.

Some analysts feel that the kidnappings were a show of strength by militant groups.

They have fought the occupation and they are determined not to be marginalised after it ends.

They are pressing to be included in any new power structure - hence the demand for jobs made by some of the kidnappers.

But other analysts say that what we are witnessing is more a power struggle within Mr Arafat's Fatah movement.

They suspect that pro-reform elements have helped engineer or at least capitalised on the current crisis.

They have wanted to generate pressure on Mr Arafat that might force him to make changes that will play to their advantage when Gaza emerges from occupation.

Israel and the Palestinians



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