RAMALLAH, West Bank – The chief Palestinian negotiator said Wednesday the Arab satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera is inciting against him and putting his life at risk with what he described as a distorted presentation of Palestinian positions in talks with Israel.
The negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said he was genuinely concerned for his and his family's safety.
Since the beginning of the week, Al-Jazeera has been releasing what it says are hundreds of leaked documents covering a decade of Mideast talks. The Qatar-based station, widely watched in the Middle East, has alleged that the documents show Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his aides made significant concessions to Israel and coordinates closely with Israel's military.
Abbas and his inner circle have said Al-Jazeera is engaging in a smear campaign against them, including by taking quotes out of context. Some have alleged portions are fabricated, while one Abbas aide has said the documents appear authentic.
The station has declined comment.
Many documents feature Erekat.
"If you see Al-Jazeera, the style is telling people, Saeb is guilty, execute him, and then after you execute him, give him an unfair trial," he told The Associated Press.
Erekat said he has not received death threats but was concerned, nonetheless. "One has to keep in mind, you have a family, a wife and neighbors," he said. "There is a price I am paying."
Some Palestinian officials have said they believe the documents were leaked by someone linked to the Negotiations Support Unit, a department that provides technical and research support and his headed by Erekat.
Erekat said the issue is under investigation, but it is premature to hold his office responsible or point at suspects. He said that if it turns out his office was the source of the leak, he said, he would take responsibility. He would not elaborate.
Since the start of the nightly broadcasts on Sunday, Abbas' Fatah movement has rallied around him and the other negotiators. Abbas supporters marched toward Al-Jazeera's main West Bank office in Ramallah on two occasions, chanting angry slogans. The office is under police guard around the clock, said police spokesman Adnan Damiri.
Al-Jazeera seems to have scaled back West Bank operations in recent days, with crews missing from key events. Damiri said police would provide an escort if Al-Jazeera asks for it.
In the West Bank city of Nablus, an office providing services to broadcasters was trashed by several young men Wednesday after they learned that a local academic had just filmed an interview with Al-Jazeera there.
Samir Khweireh, an employee in the Palmedia office, said the attackers broke a door, a camera, a computer and a printer after learning Al-Jazeera used the office. He said the office has since been closed.
Associated Press writer Mohammed Daraghmeh contributed to this report.