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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

CIA Chief Seeks Palestinian Reform

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- CIA Director George Tenet arrived in Israel on Monday seeking a prompt restructuring of the Palestinian security services, with the aim of stopping attacks against Israel. The militant Hamas group, meanwhile, rejected an offer to join a Palestinian Cabinet to be announced in the coming days.

Tenet was to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon later Monday and the Israeli leader planned to tell the CIA chief that the Israeli government is deeply skeptical about proposed Palestinian reforms. Tenet will meet with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on Tuesday.

Arafat has offered Cabinet posts to four militant groups that have been involved in attacks against Israel, including suicide bombings. Three of the groups have rejected the offer previously, and Hamas joined them Monday. "We don't think the participation of Hamas in the new Cabinet would add to the Palestinian cause," said Mahmoud Zahar, one of the group's leaders.

Of the more than 60 suicide attacks by Palestinians in the current conflict, Hamas' military wing has carried out more than any other group, including the deadliest. The group has rejected Arafat's call to halt such attacks.

In the West Bank, Israeli troops raided the Ain Beit Ilma refugee camp near Nablus, rounding up an estimated 400 men aged between 15 and 50, who were taken away from questioning. It marked the fourth straight day Israeli troops have searched for militants in the Nablus area, which remains under curfew.

Arafat has come under strong pressure to reform the Palestinian government and security forces, and is expected to streamline about a dozen separate security forces into four branches.

Tenet, who is on six-nation Middle East tour to gauge Arab support for changes in the Palestinian Authority, will be looking for details when he meets with Arafat

The United States and European nations have contributed millions of dollars, and are expected to give millions more to the Palestinians for their security forces. The Americans and Europeans are also expected to closely monitor how the Palestinians go about overhauling the security forces.

Palestinian sources said Arafat is likely to be in overall charge of the restructured security forces. The multiple, overlapping security forces have created a number of fierce rivalries between the security chiefs, and some will inevitably lose out if Arafat slashes the number of senior posts.

While Arafat has pledged to make changes, he faces a divergent group of critics. They include the Palestinian people, who are highly critical of corruption in the government; the United States, which wants to see greater democracy; and the Israelis, whose top priority is a halt to the attacks by militants.

Sharon has said repeatedly he does not believe the Palestinian reforms will be serious as long as Arafat leads the Palestinian Authority and he was expected to deliver that message to Tenet Monday evening.

In another development Monday, a Palestinian military tribunal in the Gaza Strip ordered the release of the leader of a radical faction who is being held in a West Bank jail under British and U.S. supervision.

Despite the court ruling, there was no immediate sign that the Palestinians were about to release the detainee, Ahmed Saadat, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The release of Saadat would anger Israel, which initially insisted he be extradited for his alleged role in October's assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi.

Saadat's PFLP claimed responsibility for the killing and four PFLP members -- but not Saadat -- were convicted in a one-day trial held by a makeshift Palestinian court earlier in the year.

When Israel occupied the West Bank town of Ramallah in late March, the five men were being held at Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah. As part of a deal bringing about Arafat's release, Saadat and the four convicted killers were transferred to the West Bank town of Jericho.

A Palestinian security court, sitting in Gaza City, on Monday ordered Saadat's release. When the decision was announced, dozens of PFLP supporters waiting outside the court cheered. Saadat has never been charged or tried.