The Bush administration will provide USD 86.4 million to strengthen security forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, expanding US involvement in Abbas' power struggle with Hamas, according to documents revealed Friday.
The US money will be used to "assist the Palestinian Authority presidency in fulfilling PA commitments under the Road Map (peace plan) to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and establish law and order in the West Bank and Gaza," a US government document said.
The document said Lieutenant-General Keith Dayton, the US Security coordinator between Israel and the Palestinians, would implement the USD 86.362 million program "to strengthen and reform elements of the Palestinian security sector controlled by the PA presidency."
Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri accused Washington of helping to mount a "coup" against the Hamas-led government. "We demand that President Abbas reject this American policy, which feeds the culture of divisions among the Palestinian people," he said.
Abbas' office had no immediate comment.
Weeks ago, when Abbas called for early parliamentary and presidential elections, pursuant to escalating violence between Fatah and Hamas gunmen, Hamas accused Abbas of mounting a coup.
The US money will provide Abbas' presidential guard with training and non-lethal equipment, including vehicles and uniforms, people familiar with the plan said.
said Washington had already helped organize shipments of guns and ammunition to the presidential guard from Egypt and Jordan, and that the latest shipment was made last week.
Clashes between armed units loyal to Hamas and Fatah have increased in recent days. Six people were killed in factional fighting on Thursday alone.
The money for the presidential guard was initially earmarked for US Aid programs in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, but those programs were "cancelled or suspended after Hamas took power earlier this year," The US Document said.
Officials familiar with the US Security plan said the money would not be used to pay the salaries of members of the presidential guard.
Abbas' presidential guard currently has about 3,700 members. With aid from the United States and its allies, Abbas hopes to expand it to 4,700 members in 12 to 18 months. Palestinian sources said the guard could grow to 10,000 members.
Hamas says its own "Executive Force" has nearly 6,000 members and will also be expanded. Hamas receives funding from Iran
and other Islamist allies.