RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the resignation of a top security chief Saturday and ordered hundreds of senior security officers to retire in a bid to reform his forces and halt violence, an official said.
Abbas, who took office Jan. 15 after the death last year of longtime Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, has been under pressure from Israel and Washington to impose law and order in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israel and the United States have demanded that the Palestinians streamline their corruption-plagued security forces, which under Arafat ballooned into nearly a dozen branches with often overlapping authorities and rivalries. The Palestinian Authority has 45,000 to 50,000 security officers on its payroll.
"We will not allow anyone to take the law into his own hands and sabotage our situation," Abbas said, criticizing the security services.
"I want to distinguish between nationalists and criminals," Abbas said in remarks broadcast on Palestinian television. "The security apparatus did not perform its duty, so it was crucial to take a stand," he added, in his most blunt criticism yet of the forces.
Abbas ordered the ratification of a law that would essentially force many security officers into early retirement, a Palestinian official said. "Hundreds of security men will retire," the official said, adding that the legislation would take effect next week.
Abbas also accepted the resignation of Haj Ismail Jaber, head of national security in the West Bank, whom he had urged to quit for failing to halt growing lawlessness between rival factions. Members of Abbas' Fatah faction fired at the president's compound in Ramallah on Wednesday.
Jaber resigned, but he blamed the government for not stopping the internal violence in the West Bank and Gaza in recent months. The chaos also prompted Thursday's resignation of the head of intelligence. On Friday, gunmen from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, loosely linked to Fatah, stormed a recreation center in the West Bank town of Nablus.