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Arafat Fires Relative as Head of Palestinian Police - 2004-07-19

The Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, bowed to pressure on Monday and fired his relative, Musa Arafat, as head of security in the Gaza Strip. His appointment Saturday sparked two days of violent protests. The dismissal came as the Palestinian cabinet held an emergency meeting to discuss the political unrest.

Palestinian officials said Mr. Arafat has dismissed his cousin Musa only two days after appointing him the new chief of security in Gaza. The embattled Palestinian leader phoned Brigadier General Abdel Razek Majaide and asked him to return the post he left last week at Mr. Arafat's request.

The Palestinian president's appointment of his cousin and longtime loyalist Musa set off demonstrations by Palestinians who saw the decision as another example of rampant corruption and political cronyism within the Palestinian Authority.

In recent days, Mr. Arafat has also been coming under increasing challenge from Fatah, his own political faction.

At least 12 Palestinians were reported wounded in fighting late Sunday between militants in Fatah and the Palestinian Authority's security forces. The clashes occurred during violent protests against changes to the security forces announced by Mr. Arafat - in particular the appointment of Musa Arafat.

Palestinian hospital staff in Rafah in southern Gaza reported at least 12 people had been wounded when hundreds of Fatah members, backed by an angry mob, attacked the headquarters of the Palestinian military intelligence with gunfire, gasoline bombs and stones.

The siege lasted two hours before a cease-fire was reached with the help of local mediators.

In the face of the latest unrest, the Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Quriea, convened an emergency meeting of his Cabinet on Monday in the West Bank city of Ramallah. He submitted his resignation on Saturday, following a series of kidnappings and a wave of violence in the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Arafat rejected the offer and has asked Mr. Qureia to remain in his post.