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JERUSALEM – A top leader of the so-called “military wing” of Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party vowed in a WND interview his terror group would continue firing rockets from the Gaza Strip at nearby Jewish communities regardless of peace negotiations reportedly taking place between Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed to WND they have a new rocket in Gaza that can travel further than those previously fired from the territory.

The Brigades, who last month were offered amnesty by Olmert, took credit for a Qassam rocket attack yesterday that scored a direct hit on a house in the Israeli city of Sderot, a town of about 25,000 residents located three miles from the Gaza border. Two were injured in the attack.

“No matter what happens in negotiations, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades will keep shooting these rockets at the Zionists,” Abu Lel Muntasser, chief of the Brigades in the southern Gaza Strip, told WND.

Muntasser and other Brigades leaders said the past few days they fired a new kind of rocket, called the Al Aqsa 107. They declined to give specifics of the claimed new rocket other than to say it has a larger engine and contains more explosives than rockets previously fired from Gaza.

Abbas’ Brigades also fired rockets this past Tuesday during a summit between the Palestinian leader and Olmert.

In a gesture to Abbas’ Olmert last month granted amnesty to 178 West Bank-based members of the Brigades, Fatah’s declared military wing which took responsibility along with the Islamic Jihad terror group for every suicide bombing in Israel the past two years.

Israel issued documents for the 178 Fatah fugitives to sign, pledging their resignation from any so-called paramilitary organizations. The wanted militants – who comprise much of the senior Brigades leadership – also were required to turn in their weapons, spend a week in a PA holding area and restrict their movements to the area in which they reside for three months. After that, they would be allowed to move freely throughout the West Bank.

In spite of the amnesty deal, Brigades members, including those taken off Israel’s wanted list, have been carrying out attacks in recent weeks, security sources said.

Last week, a Brigades gunman fired at Israeli soldiers at the Hawara checkpoint outside the West Bank city of Nablus. Brigades sources said group members perpetuated “dozens” of shootings against Israeli forces since last month. Over the weekend, the Israeli Defense Forces searched the house of a Brigades gunman who was accused of carrying out recent shooting attacks, security sources said.

Ayad Frehat, a Brigades leader in the West Bank city of Jenin, told WND last week his group in the West Bank would not disarm or cease attacks on the Jewish state in spite of an amnesty.

“We respect our leaders but will keep fighting until Israel withdraws completely from the West Bank. We are the resistance. We will keep fighting and never give up our weapons until Israel withdraws,” said Frehat.

“Whenever the Israeli army acts in the West Bank, we will fight side-by-side with our brothers from the other resistance movements,” Frehat said.

Earlier this month, WND broke the story how Israel captured an armed Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades member who was smuggling bullets from Jenin to Nablus, but let him go after it was determined he was on a list of wanted gunmen granted amnesty by Olmert.

WND also reported this week Olmert was considering granting amnesty to hundreds more Brigades gunmen and may allowed the return to Bethlehem of 26 Brigades leaders who were exiled after seizing the city’s Church of the Nativity in 2002. The Nativity church is the believed birthplace of Jesus.


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