● Mitch Potter of the Toronto Star reports on the breakdown of law and order in Nablus, where mafia-like gangs rule the city:
Buoyed by what is now a total absence of islah, or public order, a fragmented array of heavily armed criminal gangs has turned the intifada on itself.
As many as eight separate factions in Nablus and the three refugee camps that ring the city — lay claim to the title Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the radical offshoot of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement.
But the name doesn’t mean much these days, not when so many who lay claim to it are fighting for the spoils of criminal racketeering, car thefts, drugs, gun running and extortion.
“It is a mafia that controls our streets now,” says Mayoub Abu Saliyeh, who last week witnessed a bloody turf battle from the vantage of the gas station he manages. “People get killed, nobody gets arrested, because there is no law, no security.
“I have never seen my city like this before, where any man with a gun can do whatever he wants. It is a dream for Israel, the way Palestinians quarrel with each other.”
There is a history of friction between the younger members of the Fatah movement and the old guard brought back from exile after interim peace agreements in the early 1990s to run the newly-formed Palestinian Authority.
Failure to hold elections for the party’s governing bodies are at the heart of the dispute.
Party procedure calls for elections every five years, but none have taken place since 1989.
● Jerusalem Post reports that Palestinian journalists continue to protest Fatah press intimidation:
Alarmed by a rise in the number of attacks on journalists, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate and human rights groups have once again appealed to the Palestinian Authority to take stiff measures against perpetrators.
The journalists are also planning a one-day strike later this week to protest against the attacks, all of which have been carried out by Fatah gunmen.
The most recent attacks took place last week in Ramallah and Gaza City. In the first case, three masked Palestinian gunmen carrying AK-47 assault rifles stormed the offices of the Ramallah-based Al-Quds Educational Television.
Assistant manager Haroun Abu Arrah, one of two station employees present at the time, told the Committee for the Protection of Journalists that one of the men demanded that he hand over a tape. When Abu Arrah asked for clarification, the gunmen began beating the two staffers with rifle butts and fists.