Palestinian police seek stronger hand

Associated Press
Published October 4, 2005

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Disgruntled Palestinian police officers stormed the Parliament building Monday, complaining they do not have enough firepower to confront Hamas, and legislators upset over the growing chaos demanded that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas reshuffle the Cabinet and fire his security chief.

The protest and Parliament's rebuke of Abbas came a day after the worst fighting between Hamas and police in nearly a decade. Three people were killed, including the deputy police chief in the Shati refugee camp near Gaza City, who was shot in the head after he and his men ran out of bullets during a Hamas assault on their station.

"We will not remain silent in the face of this," Abbas said. "This mob behavior, this chaos must end."

However, Palestinian security officials say police are no match for the armed groups.

In Gaza, only about half of the 18,000 members of the security forces carry guns, with a limited number of bullets at their disposal, the officials say. Hamas in Gaza commands at least 5,000 gunmen, according to some estimates, and has equipped them with assault rifles, antitank missiles and grenades.

During the police protest, the Palestinian Parliament was holding an emergency session on the growing lawlessness. The main proceedings were held in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

In a 43-5 vote, legislators asked Abbas to present a new Cabinet within two weeks, and many demanded the ouster of Interior Minister Nasser Yousef, head of security forces.