Arafat to Visit Jericho Next Week; Palestinian Police Keep Eye on Mosques

Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat will visit the West Bank town of Jericho next week, according to Palestinian officials.

Preceded by an advance group of bodyguards who are already in Jericho, Arafat is scheduled to spend four days there before leaving for the Gaza Strip for a two-day visit.

Palestinian police officials have meanwhile ordered the imams, or Muslim religious leaders, to stop inciting their congregations against the newly established police force.

From now on, the police officials said, they will be keeping a watchful eye on the mosques and their clergy.

The imams have also been ordered to cease using the mosques for political activities, with police stating that the sanctity of the Palestinian religious centers should be respected.

The ruling, issued in Gaza on Monday, reflects the growing tension between the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement, which staunchly opposes the Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, and the police, who are aligned with the mainstream PLO.

Last week, Hamas officials issued what amounted to a declaration of war against Maj. Gen. Nasser Yussef, the commander of security forces in Gaza and Jericho.

Hamas, the declaration said, would not meet two demands issued by Yussef: that the group surrender its weapons to the police and hand over those who were involved in the killing two weeks ago of two people suspected of collaborating with Israel.

Palestinian sources believe the latest police measures regarding the imams will stir up yet further opposition from Hamas.

This week, Maj. Gen. Abdel Razik al-Majaida was named the new police chief of the Gaza Strip.

He arrived Sunday at Rafah, at the southern tip of Gaza, along with some 150 PLO personnel formerly based in Tunis who are expected to assume administrative posts in Gaza.

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