JERUSALEM – A unified Palestinian security force financed, armed and trained by the United States is set to include members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, one of the most active, anti-Israel terror organizations, WND has learned.
Also a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees – a major Palestinian terror group – pledged in a WND interview to infiltrate U.S. training programs for Palestinians and to obtain American weapons provided to Palestinian forces.
On her visit here last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters the U.S. will ensure weapons and aid reportedly being provided to militias affiliated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party will not be used to attack Israel.
The Bush administration reportedly will grant $86.4 million to strengthen the Fatah forces, including Force 17, Abbas’ security detail, which also serves as de facto police units in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
The U.S. aid is meant to bolster Fatah, which the U.S. considers moderate, against Hamas. Fatah and Hamas have engaged in weeks of deadly factional clashes after Abbas’ call last month for new Palestinian elections in a move widely seen as an attempt to dismantle the Hamas-led PA.
Rice said the U.S. is working with Fatah to create a unified Palestinian security force, which she said would combine Fatah factions and afford more control over the distribution of aid and weapons.
Referring to the weapons previously supplied to Fatah with little control over distribution, Rice stated, “It was envisioned that the Palestinian Authority would have security forces. The problem is those security forces broke [up] into essentially personal militias under Arafat. They broke into too many that were often warring with each other.”
Rice announced U.S. military envoys in Israel created “a plan for security forces that can be part of the solution, not part of the problem. And this plan is not just to equip them and train them, [but] it is also to professionalize them, to unify them, to put them under a single command.”
“This is a train-and-equip program that is going to move over time,” Rice said, “so it is not as if you simply arm the Palestinians on Day One and then have no input or control over what happens from then on. I think as a result you can maintain some control on what is being done.”
According to Palestinian security sources, Fatah’s strongman in Gaza, Mahmoud Dahlan, has been tasked with leading the effort to create the unified Fatah security forces under the auspices of Keith Dayton, the U.S. security coordinator in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
WND has learned the new unified Fatah forces, currently being set up in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, are set to include leaders of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror organization from Nablus and Jenin in the northern West Bank and from the Brigade’s leadership in the Palestinian city of Ramallah.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is the declared “military wing” of Fatah. Together with Islamic Jihad, the Brigades has taken responsibility for every suicide bombing in Israel the past two years, including an attack in Tel Aviv in April that killed American teenager Daniel Wultz and nine Israelis. The Brigades also has carried out scores of deadly shooting and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians in recent months.
According to sources in the Brigades, Dahlan held a series of meetings in recent weeks with the terror group’s northern West Bank leadership, members of which also serve as officials in Fatah’s Preventative Security Services, a major Palestinian police force. Dahlan told the Brigades leaders who are also members of the Preventative Security Services they would be part of the new U.S.-backed unified forces, which the U.S. expects to fight against Hamas, the Brigades sources said.
“Dahlan said he is with us. Whatever we need, arms, money, it will be provided to us as part of the new (unified) security forces,” a senior Brigades leader said.
“The project this time is supposed to be arming Fatah against Hamas, but Allah forbid, I will never shoot against my brothers in Hamas,” the Brigades leader said. “The weapons and aid will protect the institutions of Fatah and be used to fight Israeli occupation.”
All Brigades leaders are also members of Fatah. Abbas last June appointed senior Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leader Mahmoud Damra as commander of Force 17. Damra, who was arrested by Israel in November, was on the Jewish state’s most-wanted list of terrorists. Scores of Brigades leaders openly serve as members of Force 17.
Senior Brigades leaders in Nablus told WND they previously participated in American training programs. Among American-trained Brigades leaders is a terrorist who openly boasts of carrying out anti-Israel shooting attacks and involvement in planning four suicide bombings.
Abu Yousuf, a Fatah militant from Abba’s Force 17 security forces who also serves in the Brigades, told WND while some of the new U.S. aid and weapons may be used in confrontations against Hamas, the bulk of the American arms and training to Fatah would be utilized to “hit the Zionists.”
“If Israel will deliver what it promised to Abu Mazen (Abbas), [meaning a] withdrawal from Palestinian lands, including east Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, remove all the checkpoints in the West Bank, release our prisoners, and find a clear solution for our refugees, we’ll control our forces and the distribution of weapons
“But if Israel doesn’t deliver, and we find ourselves manipulated by Israel, we cannot guarantee members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Force 17 will not use these weapons against Israel. Our goal is to change the occupation,” said Abu Yousuf.
“It’s unnatural to think these American weapons won’t be used against the Israelis,” he said.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Abdel-Al, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees terror organization, told WND his group would infiltrate the new unified security force aided by the U.S.
“We have members in the Fatah security organizations, including in Force 17, who will be a part of this American training,” Abdel-Al said.
“There are activists in Fatah affiliated with all the Palestinian groups, including ours, and Hamas. We vow that should (American) arms reach us, we will use them against the occupation and the Zionist enemy.”
The Popular Resistance Committees is a coalition of several Palestinian terror groups and is responsible for scores of anti-Israel shootings and rocket attacks. The Committees is also accused of carrying out a bombing in 2003 on a U.S. convoy in Gaza in which three American contractors were killed.
A Committees leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, told WND members of his organization who serve in Fatah security forces, including those slated for U.S. training, have been instructed to pledge allegiance to Abbas and keep their membership in the Committees confidential.
Also, Abu Oubaida, a spokesman for Hamas so-called “military wing,” told WND last week his terror group will obtain any weapons transferred to Fatah militias or purchased by Fatah using the incoming U.S. aid.
“I am sure that like in the past, this $86 million from America will find its way to the Hamas resistance via the honorable persons in the Fatah security organizations, including in Force 17. I can confirm 100 percent that this money and purchased weapons will find its way to Hamas,” said Abu Oubaida.
The Hamas spokesman and other Hamas officials said “scores” of Fatah militants have switched over to Hamas in recent months.
Sources close to Hamas said the Fatah militants, including members of Force 17, worked with Hamas after receiving larger paychecks from the terror group.
“When they join Hamas, they bring along their new weapons,” said a Hamas source.
A senior Fatah security official in the Gaza Strip, speaking on condition his name be withheld, confirmed to WND Fatah has a “significant problem” of its militia members in Gaza joining Hamas.
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