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Abbas Cracks Down on Palestinian Militants

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas ordered a crackdown on Ramallah militants early Thursday after a group of gunmen fired at his compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah while he was inside.

Palestinian security officials said a group of 15 militants attacked the compound before setting off on a rampage in Ramallah damaging businesses and forcing some shops to close. Mr. Abbas was inside the compound at the time of the shooting. There were no reports of injuries.

The incident was apparently triggered when Palestinian security officials forced six of the men out of his compound where they had taken refuge after Israel began hunting down militants shortly after Israeli-Palestinian violence erupted in September of 2000.

The Associated Press quotes an unnamed Palestinian security official as saying six of some 20 militants inside the compound had been told to either hand over their weapons or leave after it was determined they had been involved in kidnappings, blackmail and acts of violence.

Tensions flared again Thursday in the West Bank town of Tulkarem when Palestinian police demanded the surrender of seven armed militants who had burned down a Palestinian checkpoint overnight after officers shot and wounded at least one suspected militant. The incident occurred just hours after the shooting in Ramallah.

Internal fighting has plagued the Palestinian territories for months. The problems have been blamed on a breakdown in authority resulting from the four and a half years of fighting with Israel that severely debilitated the security forces and other Palestinian Authority institutions.

President Abbas has vowed to restore law and order to Palestinian areas and reform the security forces.

After the shooting incident in Ramallah he ordered more troops out on the streets to arrest militants and instructed Palestinian Authority officials to pay compensation to the businesses that were damaged.