RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) – Yasser Arafat chose the Palestinian
parliament speaker to take over as prime minister Sunday after a
day of intense backroom politicking that followed the resignation
of Mahmoud Abbas.
Several leaders of Arafat’s ruling Fatah party confirmed the
nomination by consensus of parliament speaker Ahmed Qureia, though
it remained unclear if he would accept.
Meanwhile, Israeli helicopters fired two missiles at the home of
Hamas militant Abdel Salam Abu Musa in the Gaza Strip on yesterday,
wounding at least 11 people, witnesses said. There was no word on
whether anyone was killed or whether Musa was hurt.
It was the eighth such Israeli missile strike since a Hamas
suicide bomber killed 22 people on a Jerusalem bus on Aug. 19.
Those attacks have killed 12 militants, including a senior
political leader, and five bystanders.
Israel edged toward all-out war with the militant group, as
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced all of the Islamic
militant group’s members are now “marked for death.”
Abbas’ resignation Saturday set off heated negotiations. Arafat
had refused to grant him more power over the Palestinian security
services, capping four months of wrangling between the two since
Abbas took office.
Qureia, a moderate who helped cobble together the 1993 Oslo
accord between Israel and the PLO, has led past negotiations and
has credibility with the Israelis.
The resignation dealt a serious blow to the U.S.-backed “road
map” plan for establishing a Palestinian state by 2005. Israel and
the United States refused to deal with Arafat, whom they accuse of
fomenting terrorism, and made Abbas their partner in peace
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said any Palestinian prime
minister must have clear control over security forces and use them
to crack down on militant groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
“That person has to have political authority and the determination
to go after terrorism,” Powell said on ABC’s “This Week.”
The “road map” plan requires the Palestinians to dismantle
militant groups. Abbas, despite his strong support for the road map
in principle, has refused to do this forcefully, appealing in vain
to the militants to disarm.