It looks as if Israel is going to take another trip around the Carousel. Once again it is working with the US to help supply a supposedly “reformed terrorist turned moderate” with weapons. And once again those weapons will eventually be used to kill Israelis.
This time the proposal is to arm Fatah in its civil war against Hamas. The only problem is that the Fatah “army” has been “merged” with Hamas since the Mecca agreement. Pulling them apart is not as easy is it seems. The other problem is that many of the Fatah fighters are openly members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group, Fatah’s declared “military wing” which took responsibility for every suicide bombing in Israel the past two years. The Jewish state regularly arrests Force 17 members accused of carrying out shooting attacks against Israelis. Olmert is committing Israel to to additional self-inflicted wounds.
Terror leader: We’ll obtain U.S. weaponry
By Aaron Klein
JERUSALEM – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ has petitioned Israel to allow weapons and munitions – including assault rifles provided by the U.S. – to reach his fighters in the Gaza Strip to bolster them against Hamas, according to diplomatic sources.
A leader of the Hamas-allied Popular Resistance Committees terror group told WND his organization and Hamas will obtain any weapons received by Abbas’ Fatah party.
The Israeli media today reported Abbas requested that Israel allow large shipments of arms and ammunition from Arab countries, including Egypt, to be delivered to the Gaza Strip, where Fatah and Hamas have engaged in weeks of factional clashes.
Israel has not officially responded to the request, which the Israeli media reported includes dozens of Arab-provided armored cars, hundreds of armor-piercing Rocket Propelled Grenades, thousands of hand grenades and millions of rounds of ammunition for small-caliber weapons.
WND has learned the weapons shipments awaiting Fatah include over 1,000 American assault rifles and 1 million rounds of ammunition provided by the U.S. and coordinated by Keith Dayton, the U.S. security director for the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Israel controls the border routes where the weapons would need to be delivered to Gaza and must approve and protect the shipment convoys.
Last month WND reported Washington sent diplomatic messages to the Palestinians that if aid were requested, the U.S. would bolster the Fatah organization in clashes against Hamas, including providing Fatah with American weapons.
According to Israeli diplomatic sources, Dayton urged Israel to provide assistance to bolster Abbas’ security forces in Gaza, particularly Force 17, Abbas’ security detail who also serve as de facto police officers.
Many members of Force 17 are openly members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group, Fatah’s declared “military wing” which took responsibility for every suicide bombing in Israel the past two years. The Jewish state regularly arrests Force 17 members accused of carrying out shooting attacks against Israelis.
After forging a unity government in February that ended several rounds of deadly factional Palestinian infighting, Fatah and Hamas last month engaged in heated gun battles killing 53 Palestinians in some of the deadliest internal clashes in Gaza in months.
Today, fighting broke out after nearly two weeks of calm when Fatah and Hamas opened fire on each other near the Gaza-Egypt border, killing at least one Fatah fighter.
Israeli security officials say they are concerned if the weapons are delivered to Fatah, they will end up in the hands of Hamas and other terror groups, which have won most of the battles in Gaza.
A leader of the Popular Resistance Committees today told WND “we will obtain any weapons shipments to Fatah. We won’t let any weapons reach the hands of those who might try to disrupt our plans in Gaza.”
According to Israeli and Palestinian security officials and Hamas sources, Hamas militias in recent months have taken almost complete control of the northern Gaza Strip, including areas from which rockets are launched regularly into nearby Jewish communities. The officials said Fatah, backed by the U.S., is restricted to acting within a half-mile radius of a major Fatah military compound. Hamas has set up roadblocks and checkpoints throughout northern Gaza to ensure Fatah militias remain near their compound.
The U.S. in recent months reportedly transferred large quantities of weapons to Fatah, purportedly to back Abbas’ military organizations against Hamas.
The last confirmed U.S. weapons transfer to the Palestinians took place in May 2006 and consisted of 3,000 assault rifles, but WND reported multiple other transfers later were delivered to Fatah, including a cache of 7,000 rifles in January and about 8,000 assault rifles in February.
While the weapons were meant to bolster Fatah in Gaza, Hamas reportedly has won most battles against the U.S.-backed militias. WND reported last month a Fatah militia in Beit Lehiya, a major city in the northern Gaza Strip, surrendered to Hamas forces after reaching an agreement in which the Fatah militants stated they will evacuate the city and depart the Gaza Strip.
Two weeks ago, according to Palestinian security sources, Baha Abu Jarad, a Fatah strongman in Gaza, surrendered a large swath of territory to Hamas, nearly completing Hamas’ grasp on the northern Gaza Strip.
In February, after a shipment of U.S. weapons reached Fatah, Hamas spokesman Abu Oubaida told WND his terror group would obtain any American weapons transferred to Fatah militias or purchased by Fatah using U.S. aid.
Congress in April approved $59 million in aid to Fatah’s militias after an earlier Bush administration pledge of $86.4 million was blocked for fear the money might reach terrorists. The aid package contains a new qualification stipulating the money must not be used to purchase weapons.
The vast majority of the U.S. aid is slated to bolster Abbas’ Force 17 security forces.
Israel has raided Force 17 compounds on multiple occasions and arrested wanted terrorists from the units. WND reported Israel earlier this month arrested 18 Fatah fighters in the West Bank wanted for shootings against Israeli civilians. Seventeen of those arrested also were members of the Brigades, Israeli and Palestinian security officials said. Israel last weekend conducted a raid of a Fatah complex in Ramallah and arrested a Force 17 fighter wanted for anti-Israeli shootings.
Abbas last June appointed senior Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leader Mahmoud Damra as commander of Force 17. Damra, arrested by Israel in November, was on the Jewish state’s most-wanted list of terrorists.
Earlier this month, Khaled Shawish, a Force 17 officer, was arrested by Israel and accused of orchestrating a suicide bombing and dozens of deadly shootings. Shawish doubles as the chief of the Al Aqsa Brigades in Ramallah.
WND last month quoted Israeli and Palestinian security officials stating U.S.-armed intelligence and security organizations associated with Fatah, including Force 17, are infiltrated by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations.
A top Palestinian intelligence official admitted to WND: “We are leading a large number of investigations and some of the results prove that such an infiltration by Hamas (of Fatah’s security and intelligence forces) exists.”
The official oversees intelligence for Fatah’s police forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“I can say that in some cases we diagnosed a deep infiltration to high posts in some Fatah security services,” the high-ranking Palestinian intelligence officer told WND. “In some cases we believe there are officers that are exposed to very sensitive information.”
He said since the U.S. announced it is providing Abbas’ forces with additional funds, Fatah intelligence officials at the direction of American security coordinators here have been attempting to expel Hamas infiltrators. He said in the past month “dozens” of members of Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and Islamic Jihad were found operating in the Fatah forces.
The U.S. has been attempting to isolate Hamas, which it labels a terrorist group. The Popular Resistance Committees regularly carries out rocket and shooting attacks and took credit for a 2003 bombing in Gaza that killed three American contractors.
Terrorists: We infiltrated U.S.-funded militias
Terror leaders and spokesmen for terror groups told WND their militants are “well-placed” within Fatah’s militias.
Muhammad Abdel El, spokesman for the Committees, told WND last week Fatah’s attempts to discover militants from his group “have not even scratched the surface of our infiltration.”
“We are very well-placed within Fatah’s units and their little investigations made no difference,” he said.
Abu Abdullah, a leader of Hamas’ military wing in the Gaza Strip, told WND, “It doesn’t seem Fatah’s campaign to oust Hamas from inside their organizations has made a difference for us as far as our penetration of Fatah.”
Fatah attempts to expel Hamas members from its midst might be in vain since the two factions in April agreed to forge their militias and incorporate Hamas militias and terror cells into a unified security force under the authority of Abbas.