January 8, 2007
RAMALLAH: The Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, has outlawed the Hamas-led Interior Ministry's police force, the most powerful armed unit outside his control in factional fighting that has left 33 people dead in the past month.
The ministry responded with defiance. It announced plans to double the size of the paramilitary force and vowed to resist Mr Abbas's order on Saturday that its 6000 members be incorporated into the security apparatus loyal to the President's Fatah movement.
The duelling announcements raised the prospect of an intensified armed stand-off. Mr Abbas's only means of enforcing the order appeared to be coercive action by police and security units, but they are relatively weak in the Gaza Strip, Hamas's stronghold.
In an effort to strengthen Mr Abbas, US officials say they expect to ask Congress for nearly $US100 million ($130 million) to help train and supply his Presidential Guard. The US and