End of Saddam creates vacuum of power, cash flow problems for Palestinian terror groups
The downfall of Saddam Hussein has led to a shortage of funds. It has also created a power vacuum among terrorist organization in general and Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement in particular.
This power vacuum has been most strongly felt in southern Lebanon. Palestinian sources said all of the Iraqi-financed Palestinian organizations have suspended public activities, such as rallies and marches.
Iraq had been directly funding such groups as the Arab Liberation Front, the Palestine Liberation Front and the Arab Socialist Party.
Saddam's demise has also led to renewed pressure on the Palestinians by Lebanon and Syria. Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has approved a series of appointments in the Fatah leadership in Lebanon. The first changes have already been made in Fatah's organization, including the Fatah commander for the Beirut area, the sources said. The ex-commander was not identified.
Fatah has the largest presence in Lebanon outside of the Palestinian Authority. Lebanon has more than 300,000 Palestinian refugees and Fatah controls the Ein Hilwe camp outside Sidon, with a population of 75,000.
Meanwhile, Palestinian factions have been battling in Ein Hilwe. The battle has pitted Fatah forces against Al Qaida-linked insurgents, led by Abdullah Sharbadi, chief of the Usbat Nur group. Sharbadi was injured in an assassination attempt earlier this year.
The official Egyptian news agency Mena reported that "radical changes" would be made in the Fatah leadership. The agency did not elaborate but Palestinian sources later said this would include a reduction of Fatah member salaries in Ein Hilwe and the revision of tasks in the movement.
The sources also said the powers of Col. Munir Maqdah, the Fatah militia commander in Lebanon, would be reduced. Maqdah is regarded as a leading opponent of any Fatah talks with Israel. He is a chief element in the tension between Palestinians and the Lebanese government.
Fatah secretary-general in Lebanon Sultan Abu Einin has opposed Maqdah. Under the proposed changes, Maqdah's authority would be transferred to other Fatah offices headed by Ahmed Nasser and Said Al Asus.