PA official reaffirms right to arms

Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Nasir al-Qidwa has repeated his stand on the right of Palestinian resistance movements to keep their arms.

    Al-Qidwa says keeping armed groups is a strategic option

    Al-Qidwa was commenting after the Israeli reaction to his earlier comments on issues including disarming the resistance, Fatah's vision of not targeting civilians, a reciprocal ceasefire and the guaranteeing of the right to resist occupation.

    Al-Qidwa said the resistance groups should not be disarmed as long as the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land exists.

    Speaking on public television on Saturday, al-Qidwa said any move to disarm would be inconceivable at this time. He described the possession of weapons during an occupation as legal.

    "Keeping our weapons is a strategic option," he said.
    His comments came after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held talks with armed resistance groups in the Gaza Strip over an increasingly fragile truce that has been shaken by a recent flare-up in violence.
    Al-Qidwa reaffirmed the Palestinian Authority's will to preserve the period of calm, saying it "serves the national interest" as long as the truce is also observed by Israeli occupation forces.

    Israeli occupation forces have killed more than 20 Palestinians, half of them children, during the truce. Palestinian resistance groups have fired home-made rockets at illegal settlements and into Israel.

    Israeli reaction

    Israel's vice premier condemned al-Qidwa's comment on Sunday, saying that by 

    refusing to disarm resistance groups, the Palestinian Authority has dropped a "cluster bomb" on chances of renewing peace talks.

    Vice Premier Ehud Olmert (L)
    said Israel would fight

    Vowing that the Israeli army will fight any armed opposition to its occupation, Vice Premier Ehud Olmert told Israel Radio that "the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to disarm the terror groups drops a cluster bomb on the process that could lead to negotiations and quiet".

    "Very simply, either they will fight terrorism or we will fight terrorism."

    But al-Qidwa added that Abbas's governing Fatah movement was committed to halting attacks on civilians in Israel as well as settlers and Israeli soldiers in occupied territories. 
    Israel has demanded that the Palestinian Authority disarm resistance groups according to the internationally drafted road map to peace, which aims for the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
    Palestinian Islamist movements, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have long refused to surrender their weapons.

    Teenager shot

    Meanwhile, a 17-year-old Palestinian has sustained wounds to the belly as a result of gunfire by Israeli troops in Sidon, north of Tulkarim.


    The teenager was hit while he was standing in front of his parent's home, Aljazeera’s correspondent in Palestine said.


    And in Ram Allah, the Palestinian authority has deployed security forces in the centre of the town, following clashes between Palestinian gunmen.


    The clashes took place at al-Manara square and extended to other districts amid intense shooting that spread panic among the citizens.


    Security fears


    A  breakdown in security has seriously escalated recently in the Palestinian authority areas, threatening people's lives and property.


    In another development, Palestinian national security adviser Jibril al-Rajub has denied that the reorganisation of the Palestinian security apparatuses was aimed at maintaining Israel's security.


    After his meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Ghait, al-Rajub said that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories was aimed at discussing Israel's disengagement from Gaza.



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