RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian government remained in turmoil Monday as Prime Minister Ahmed Korei insisted that he was standing by his weekend resignation but members of his Cabinet negotiated over his fate with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.
"I have not yet received a written response, which means the resignation stands," Korei told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.
Korei said the meeting, which lasted more than three hours, was devoted to the leadership crisis and violent protests in the Gaza Strip over Arafat's decision over the weekend to name his cousin as the area's new security chief.
A Cabinet delegation later met with Arafat to discuss the Gaza chaos and Korei's resignation, which the Palestinian president had rejected.
After a day of clashes in Gaza that left 18 people injured, Arafat on Monday named a military general to oversee all forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The move was widely viewed as an effort to quell dissent over the president's decision to give his cousin Moussa Arafat an expanded role as part of a reorganization of the mishmash of Palestinian security agencies.
Critics view Moussa Arafat as corrupt and a symbol of cronyism, and opposition to his designation as security chief over the Gaza Strip was swift and noisy. Protesters took to the streets in Gaza, and armed Palestinian militants on Sunday stormed at least two facilities there belonging to the military intelligence service, which Moussa Arafat headed before he was granted expanded authority.
In his remarks to reporters, Korei appealed for calm in Gaza, saying the internecine violence would produce no victors and harm Palestinian interests.
"Our people, who suffer every day from incursions and killing and [having] their homes destroyed, are now the ones fighting each other," the prime minister said.
"What went on is very dangerous. Even the winner in this battle is a loser," he added. "Stop, stop. Enough, enough."
Yasser Arafat asked Brig. Gen. Abdel Razek Majaydeh to assume oversight of Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and Gaza, said the president's spokesman, Nabil abu Rudaineh. Majaydeh held the job of security chief in the Gaza Strip before that post was given to Moussa Arafat in the recent shakeup. Moussa Arafat will remain in his new post, Abu Rudaineh said.
As head of public security forces for both the West Bank and Gaza, Majaydeh technically outranks the president's cousin, whose formal authority will be limited to Gaza. But it remained unclear how much control Majaydeh would exercise over Moussa Arafat's operations.
The spokesman characterized the move as part of a routine reshuffling.
About 200 people held a rally in the Gaza Strip on Monday in support of Moussa Arafat.
The political turmoil on the Palestinian side comes as Israel prepares to withdraw Jewish settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip, which it captured from Egypt during the 1967 Middle East War. Israel envisions a phased pullout from all 21 Gaza Strip settlements and four others in the West Bank by the end of next year.
The possibility of a power vacuum in Gaza already has heightened jostling among rival factions within Yasser Arafat's dominant Fatah movement. A younger generation of Fatah members is restive over what it sees as widespread corruption and mismanagement inside the Palestinian Authority and an unyielding hold on power by Arafat and his longtime aides.
In submitting his resignation, Korei cited escalating chaos in the Palestinian streets. His action came a day after two Palestinian security officials, including the police chief of the Gaza Strip, and four French nationals were briefly abducted by Palestinian militants.
Late Monday, the Palestinian Cabinet sent a delegation of 11 ministers to Arafat's headquarters here in Ramallah to voice their concerns over Korei's resignation and the recent Gaza unrest.
A member of the delegation described the session as successful and said the president would join the full Cabinet today to discuss the issue and Korei's attempted resignation.
Korei said a Cabinet majority was opposed to his resignation, and he seemed to suggest that a final decision on quitting might rest with the results of the delegation's meeting with Arafat.
Maher Abukhater in The Times' Jerusalem Bureau contributed to this report.