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Palestinian Recruits Hit Streets Unprepared

Israeli officials contacted Friday said they could not immediately comment on what supplies had or had not been approved for the Presidential Guard. But they said Israel has been as cooperative as possible in approving equipment, given its own security needs.

A senior official in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said Israel had approved most requests related to the Palestinian security training -- "both weapons and equipment."

"Believe me, it wasn't easy," this official said.

Last month, an armored personnel carrier that had been donated to the Palestinian Authority years ago was used by Hamas fighters to attack a crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, wounding 13 Israeli soldiers.

Shlomo Dror, spokesman for Israel's Defense Ministry, said many of the Palestinians' requests for equipment have been unreasonable given that they are only supposed to be developing police capabilities.

"There's a question of whether they want to be a police force or whether they want to be an army," he said.

But the list of equipment that the United States intended to provide was drawn up with Israeli security concerns in mind. It included first-aid kits, tarps, canteens, socks, boots, vehicles and uniforms, among other nonlethal items.

"Would the Israeli forces step out of their tanks in Jenin without a helmet or a bulletproof vest? Of course not. So why should we?" said Col. Moneer Alzoabi, commander of the Presidential Guard.

Alzoabi said that his men would still go to Jenin without the equipment and that they would probably deploy within the next several days.

"It says a lot about the new Palestinian Authority security forces that they're not looking for excuses not to do something. Rather they are looking for a way to accomplish the mission," said Dov Schwartz, spokesman for Lt. Gen. Keith W. Dayton, the U.S. security coordinator.

Alzoabi said the U.S.-funded training in Jordan was "superb" and had prepared his men for their mission. But Americans involved in the program say problems persist.

One called the final field exercise for the Presidential Guard "a complete fiasco" that included the " 'killing' of civilians and blue-on-blue engagements." The term "blue on blue" refers to members of security forces accidentally or intentionally firing on each other rather than their targets.


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