In a joint statement issued by their offices in Damascus, 10 Palestinian factions, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation for Palestine, strongly rejected any "security role" proposed for Egypt and Jordan respectively in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

"We are amazed by, and deplore, the talk of a 'security role' for some Arab parties in Gaza and the West Bank," said the statement. 

"Our people expect the Arab nation to act according to the logic of supporting the Palestinians and not the logic of 'security'.

"This is not an acceptable way to intervene and deal with a people who are defending their homeland. The references [to security] turn things on their heads, making it seem as if the problem is the Palestinian people and not the occupation."

Criticism

The groups went on to say that the Egyptian role is tantamount to "guardianship" that will turn the Palestinians "into apprentices".

"We are going to let the Egyptian delegation know when they come here that the real security issue is Sharon, and that their proposed role will simply worsen the occupation"

Kayid al-Ghul,
PFLP leader

It is the strongest criticism of the proposed Egyptian role yet by Palestinian groups.

In an interview with Aljazeera.net, a political leader from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) in Gaza confirmed his party's position on the issue, saying the Egyptian role will only serve to further sinister Israeli goals in the West Bank and Gaza. 

"In our opinion, [the problem] is larger that meets the eye.  It is not a matter of just training security forces," said Salih Zidan.

"The DFLP is concerned because a shroud of ambiguity surrounds the Israeli plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip. 

"We don't mind any role as long as this Arab role contributes to ending the occupation.

"If they contribute in any other way then it will affect us negatively, and help the Israelis advance their occupation against our people, by making Gaza a big prison and continuing to build the separation barrier in the West Bank."

Rejection

PFLP leader Kayid al-Ghul voiced similar views, saying his party ultimately rejected any proposed security role, while at the same time insisting this latest difference of opinion was not a "political crisis".

"We are going to let the Egyptian delegation know when they come here that the real security issue is Sharon, and that their proposed role will simply worsen the occupation.

Israel's barrier is seen as a
pretext to steal Palestinian land

"Sharon is engaging a tactic of throwing the ball into our court by proposing the withdrawal from Gaza as a political accomplishment when it is really a part of a larger plan for reorganising the occupation and expanding the settlements in the West Bank."

Preventative security sources in Gaza are said to have assured the various factions, including Hamas, that Egypt is not trying to impose a solution upon them, and that the PA has no intention of quashing the opposition.

A spokesperson for Hamas, however, said that they would only approve of an Egyptian role that did not compromise Palestinian aspirations while at the same time calling for a national dialogue to resolve differences on the issue.

"Egyptian involvement has to be far away from any security role, and has to focus on providing political and economic support that will help end the occupation," said Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri.

Fatah support

Fatah, which was an initial signatory to the statement, issued a press release early today denying any association with the statement and voicing its support of both the Israeli plan and the proposed Egyptian security role in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas leaders are worried about
the security plans

"Fatah would like to re-affirm that it welcomes and approves of the Israeli withdrawal from any part of the occupied Palestinian territories, and considers this a national and historical accomplishment for our people. We hold in high regard the supportive role of our brothers in Egypt in their just efforts to free the entire occupied Palestinian lands."

Both statements come just prior to a return trip by Egyptian intelligence chief Umar Sulaiman, who is scheduled to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials next week.

Palestinian cabinet minister Hakam Balawi said that Palestinian leaders Yasir Arafat has initially agreed to the Egyptian request to consolidate Palestinian security apparatuses' three main bodies. 

In return Israel would have to carry out a complete and comprehensive withdrawal of its occupation forces from the entire Gaza Strip, including the borders between Gaza and Egypt. The Israeli government is said to be studying the proposal.