Palestinians Impose Curfew in Gaza As PLO Continues to Debate Charter

Following the first major incident of Palestinian-on-Palestinian violence since self-rule went into effect in mid-May, Palestinian police this week imposed a curfew on the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.

Palestinian security forces imposed the curfew on Sunday to quell rioting that erupted after a member of the police force shot dead a local youth.

The rioting erupted as Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat returned to Gaza after meeting with PLO members in Tunis who are opposed to the self-rule accord he signed with Israel.

The fatal incident occurred Saturday night when undercover police spotted a group of youths they thought were harassing young women.

When the youths resisted arrest, Moussa Abu Samhadana, the commander of the police patrol, opened fire, killing 17-year-old Salah Shayer and wounding another youth, Jalal Kishteh, 21, in the leg. The young women turned out to be relatives of the youths, who had just attended a wedding with them.

Relatives of Shayer and Kishteh vowed revenge, and an armed group went to a section of the Rafah refugee camp Sunday to try to attack members of Samhadana’s family. The group reportedly fired shots and attempted to kidnap a member of the policeman’s family.

When police arrived on the scene, there was an exchange of gunfire that left another five people wounded.

At the Tunis meeting, meanwhile, members of Al Fatah, the mainstream group of the PLO, reportedly said that the Palestinian charter would not be amended until Israel recognized the right of the Palestinians to establish a state of their own.

Prior to last September’s signing of the declaration of principles that paved the way for autonomy in Gaza and the Jericho enclave in the West Bank, Arafat had sent Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin a letter vowing that the charter would be amended to revoke passages that call for the destruction of Israel.

PERES CALLS ON PLO TO HONOR ITS COMMITMENTS

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Monday that the PLO would succeed only in damaging its own reputation if it refused to abide by agreements already reached.

“We have an agreement with the PLO, not with Tunis, and (we) expect Arafat to honor what he has promised,” Peres told reporters. “I only hope that they will not once again label themselves as those who do not keep commitments.”

Chief PLO negotiator Nabil Sha’ath denied that any new preconditions had been set for changing the PLO charter.

“Let me be very clear. There has absolutely been no decision taken by Fatah or by the PLO leadership to take any new precondition,” Sha’ath told reporters in Cairo on Monday.

During a joint news conference with Peres last Friday, following an Arafat-Peres meeting, Arafat said Israel was preventing the 480 members of the Palestine National Council to enter Gaza, where a vote would be taken to change the charter.

Peres countered Arafat’s claim, telling reporters he had already informed the PLO chairman of Israel’s willingness to let the council meet in Gaza for the vote.

According to the PLO, any changes in the charter must be ratified by two-thirds of the members of the council, which represents all branches of the PLO.

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