Dahlan accused of complicity in Arafat’s murder!

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Fatah has accused ousted party security chief Muhammad Dahlan of ‘having a hand’ in poisoning the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

Arafat died in a Paris hospital in November 2004. The exact cause of his death remains a mystery, but popular belief among Palestinians holds that he was poisoned.

Fatah’s commission of inquiry also found that Dahlan was linked to assassination attempts on other Palestinian leaders and that he had planned a coup in the West Bank.

Senior Fatah leaders Azzam Al-Ahmad, At-Tayyib Abdul-Rahim, Othman Abu Gharbiyya and Nabil Shaath submitted the findings of the inquiry.

Palestinian ambassadors were urged to avoid dealing with Dahlan and Interpol was asked to help arrest the former leader.

The Palestinian Authority said that the West Bank government had come under international and regional pressure not to pursue Dahlan, who was very cloe to the United States.

Dahlan, who once headed the PA’s feared preventative security forces, was expelled from Fatah’s governing body in June.

After Dahlan’s appeal failed, PA forces raided his Ramallah home. He was voted out of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, the party’s governing body, on June 12, for suspected ‘criminal acts’.

The former Fatah leader in Gaza was suspected of building a private armed militia in the West Bank.

Dahlan denied the allegations, responding with an online video message.

‘A coup against whom? Do we have an authority in Ramallah to coup against? We are under occupation, one female soldier rules over the West Bank; the Civil Administration governs the West Bank,’ he said in June.

But in December 2010, he was suspended from the committee which said it had set up a commission of inquiry to examine his finances and claims he tried to set up a personal militia.

Meanwhile, central committee member Azzam Al-Ahmad led a Fatah delegation that met with Hamas in Cairo on Sunday morning to hold discussions on ways to implement the reconciliation agreement signed in the Egyptian capital late April.

Hamas is represented by senior official Mussa Abu Marzuk.

Ahead of the meeting, the parties held consultative talks on Saturday evening in the presence of Egyptian intelligence officials.

Fatah central committee member Sakher Bseisso said the parties would discuss issues arising from the reconciliation agreement, which was set to end years of hostility between Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, which leads the PA in the West Bank.

Fatah officials Mahmud Al-Aloul, Zakaria Al-Agha and Amin Maqboul and senior Hamas members Izzat Ar-Rishiq and Khalil Al-Hayya attended the meeting.

But attempts to form a unity government stalled over a leadership row, as Hamas rejected Fatah’s nomination of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to lead the new government.

In July, the PA announced that it would hold municipal elections in the West Bank in October, and blamed Hamas for blocking efforts to prepare for the vote in Gaza.

The Central Elections Committee said Hamas prevented its staff from working in Gaza by closing the committee’s offices and confiscating its cars.

But Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded that the committee should have been reformed according to the reconciliation agreement.

Bseisso said on Sunday that reconciliation and the forming a unity government should not be dependent on the issue of elections.

He added that the formation of the elections committee would not be the mandate of a unity government.

The Fatah official said parties would also discuss political prisoners and issuing passports to Gaza residents at the Cairo meeting.

While leaders of the two Palestinian movements were holding preliminary talks, Israeli forces raided Beit Ummar on Saturday evening and detained four residents during a ceremony to honour Palestinian prisoners.

The Palestinian Authority Minister of Detainee Affairs Issa Qaraqe and Hebron governor Kamel Hmaid attended the ceremony but left before the army raid, reports say.

witnesses said Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and live ammunition during the raid on the town north of Hebron.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said four residents were arrested following a ‘violent riot’ in which Palestinians threw stones at soldiers.

She said forces used ‘riot dispersal means’ but claimed she was not aware that live ammunition was used.

meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday promised change to avert growing protests by demonstrators angry over the cost of living.

An unprecedented number of Israelis, the biggest number in Israel’s history, took part in nationwide protests at the weekend, the culmination of a movement that began in mid-July over the cost of housing.

As the movement has grown so have protestors demands, which now include lower taxes, an expansion of free education, lower medical costs and a break-up of monopolies.

In Tel Aviv alone, an estimated 200,000 people were reported to be in the streets, many chanting ‘the people want social justice.’

Police said another 30,000 protested in Jerusalem, with 20,000 taking part in demonstrations in towns ranging from Kiryat Shmona in the north to the southern cities of the Negev desert.

Speaking before a weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu acknowledged the frustration of the more than 250,000 people who took to the streets on Saturday night to demand cheaper housing, education and health care.

‘We can’t ignore the magnitude of the social protests,’ he said.

‘We know that we need to make changes and we will do so, showing ourselves to be responsible and responsive to the demands,’ he added in remarks broadcast on public radio.

‘We want to establish a real dialogue and hear from everyone who can propose solutions, even if we cannot meet all the demands,’ he said.

Netanyahu added that he was establishing ‘a special team’ headed by the leader of Israel’s National Council for Higher Education, prominent economist Manuel Trachtenberg.

‘I have mixed feelings about being tasked with this mission, because changes are imperative, but the responsibilities and the risks are enormous,’ Trachtenberg told Israeli radio.

The committee will be charged with finding ways to make across-the-board cuts to the cost of living, and will consult with employers groups and the powerful Histadrut trade union federation.

Environment Minister Gilad Erdan said he expected ‘radical changes.’

He added: ‘The recommendations of this team will without doubt be presented in September to the committee for economic and social affairs, and then the whole government.’

It remains unclear whether the crowds who took to the streets last Saturday would be placated by the appointment of another committee, the second Netanyahu has proposed to establish to examine protesters’ demands which if met, he has said, could plunge Israel into financial crisis.

He has also infuriated protesters by supporting legislation easing regulations for building contractors, which parliament passed before its summer recess.

Netanyahu says the legislation will address protesters’ demands by flooding the market with housing and bringing down prices, but activists say it will merely encourage the construction of luxury apartments.