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Palestinian Leader Shakes Up Security Forces Amid Growing Lawlessness

The Palestinian leader is shaking up his security forces, after they failed to stem a new wave of armed chaos in the West Bank.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has accepted the resignation of his top West Bank security chief, in response to growing lawlessness by Palestinian militants.

Mr. Abbas ordered the arrest of a group of gunmen, who opened fire on his compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah earlier this week, and then went on a rampage, damaging local businesses. The gunmen were members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group linked to the ruling Fatah movement led by Abbas.

Ahmed Qureia
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said armed chaos will not be tolerated.

"And we call on everybody to be committed to the law, to the rule of law," he said.

But Palestinian commanders failed to arrest the militants, fearing that they and their men would become targets for gunmen seeking revenge. Mr. Abbas was reportedly furious, and apparently plans a sweeping shakeup of the security command.

Israel says Mr. Abbas made a serious mistake by negotiating a truce with militant groups, instead of cracking down on them. Israeli parliamentarian Yuval Steinitz says the internationally-backed "road map" peace plan is clear about what Mr. Abbas must do.

"To uproot, to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, to disarm all the illegal organizations," said Yuval Steinitz.

Mr. Abbas is reluctant to do that, because he fears it could lead to a Palestinian civil war.