About 1,000 Palestinian security officials will be forced into retirement by the end of the week as part of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' security reforms, a senior Palestinian official said Monday.
In recent days, Abbas has taken steps to reform his inefficient and corrupt security forces and to rein in militants, who have taken control of many West Bank towns in recent years.
He forced out West Bank security chief Ismail Jaber on Saturday, appointed Maj. Gen. Nadal Asoli his replacement Sunday and promised further security reforms
The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Abbas would gradually replace other security leaders tainted by corruption charges.
Abbas was elected Palestinian leader on Jan. 9, succeeding Yasser Arafat.
The official also said Abbas would use a law passed by Palestinian legislators last month to forcibly retire about 1,000 members of the security forces who are over the age of 60. Those retirements, which the official said would take place this week, would allow a new generation of officers to be recruited.
Abbas appointed a committee Saturday to deal with the fate of 523 armed fugitives sought by Israel. Israel has said it will not pursue the fugitives if they are disarmed and do not participate in violent acts.
Abdel Fattah Hamayel, who heads the committee, said Monday that many of the fugitives serve in the security forces and do not have to be disarmed. The remainder will be offered security or other government jobs, he said.
The committee has set no deadline for disarming the remaining fugitives, but hopes to achieve that goal gradually, he said.
"Eventually, there should be no weapons but the Palestinian Authority ones," Hamayel said.
Abbas has also formed a committee to investigate the issue of corruption in the Palestinian Authority. Accusations of corruption have plagued the Authority for years and reduced the popularity of the ruling Fatah Party, which faces strong competition from the Islamic Hamas group in July parliamentary elections.
MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH, Associated Press Writer