msnbc.com news services
updated 4/23/2005 3:26:33 PM ET 2005-04-23T19:26:33

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday appointed three new security chiefs, consolidating his security apparatus and completing a key element of internal reform.

The United States and Israel have long urged Abbas to carry out sweeping reforms, hoping they would become more effective in restoring order and reining in militants. However, Abbas has said he would try to co-opt, not confront the armed groups.

The new appointments were formally announced Saturday, though the names were leaked earlier in the week. In naming the new chiefs, all veterans of the security services, Abbas took a last step in streamlining nine security branches, which under the late Yasser Arafat had overlapping tasks and authorities.

The three new chiefs are: Brig. Gen. Suleiman Heles, as head of the National Security; Brig. Gen. Alaa Husni as head of the Palestinian Police; and Maj. Gen. Tareq Abu Rajab, as head of General Intelligence.

Abu Rajab had served as a top officer in the General Intelligence. In the summer of 2004, Palestinian militants targeted him in a driveby shooting, killing two of his bodyguards and seriously wounding him. In 1996, Abu Rajab was one of the key players in a crackdown on the Islamic militant group Hamas in Gaza.

Heles is a veteran of the ruling Fatah movement and received military training in Russia. His brother, Ahmed, is also a senior Fatah official in Gaza.

Abbas has also signed off on the forced retirement of two leading security figures, who are to be among 1,150 eased out under a retirement plan announced earlier this month.

The two are Moussa Arafat, the head of the national security forces in the Gaza Strip, and Amin al-Hindi, the head of General Intelligence.

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