Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (search), who is trying to reform his ineffectual security apparatus, on Tuesday named a new head of the powerful agency in charge of reining in militants, officials said.
The new chief of the Preventive Security Service is Rashid Abu Shbak, who ran the Gaza branch of that agency for two years.
Abu Shbak is one of the young generation of leaders in Abbas' ruling Fatah (search) movement, and his appointment is in keeping with Abbas' recent efforts to sweep out members of the old guard associated with his predecessor, Yasser Arafat (search).
Israel jailed Abu Shbak for almost 16 years beginning in the 1970s for his activities in Fatah's armed wing in Gaza, then deported him to south Lebanon. From there, Abu Shbak — who became fluent in Hebrew during his time in Israeli prisons — joined other Fatah leaders in Tunisia, returning to Gaza in 1994 with the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.
Arafat then appointed him deputy chief of Preventive Security in Gaza, a position he held until 2003, when he became the agency's top official.
Abbas also appointed two deputies to Abu Shbak. Ziyad Habalreh will be in charge of the Preventive Security Service in the West Bank (search), and Suleiman Abu Mutlaq will run the Gaza branch.
The United States and Israel long have urged Abbas to overhaul his security apparatus, which has been ineffective in restoring order and curbing militants.
On Saturday, the Palestinian leader completed a key element of reform by consolidating the nine branches of his security service into three. He 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.