Hamas fighters

JERUSALEM – Hamas will obtain armored vehicles, assault rifles and ammunition Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to give Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization today, Hamas leaders told WND.

Olmert’s approval to ship 25 armored vehicles to Fatah forces was strongly contested by the Israel Defense Forces and Israel’s Shin Bet Security Services out of fear Hamas would seize the equipment.

“We thank Olmert for this gift to the American tool (Abbas), because it is only a matter of time before the Islamic resistance (Hamas) will come to the West Bank just as we took Gaza,” said Abu Abdullah, considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas’ so-called military wing. “Of course we will obtain the armored vehicles.”

Muhammad Abdel-El, the spokesman of the Hamas-allied Popular Resistance Committees terror group told WND, “Abbas and the Zionists didn’t learn from the lessons of Gaza. The West transferred weapons and equipment in a conspiracy against Hamas in Gaza; we warned we would take control, and this happened. We say the same thing this time. These new transfers to Abbas will be obtained by us.”

Olmert today approved the armed vehicle shipment as a gesture to Abbas ahead of next week’s U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian summit in Annapolis at which Israel is largely expected to outline a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank.

The armored vehicles will be sent by Russia as part of a deal made between Abbas and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2003. Israel, which controls the West Bank borders, did not facilitate the transfer four years ago, but Olmert green-lighted the vehicle delivery after Abbas earlier this month reportedly petitioned Russia to send the machinery.

Aside from the armored vehicles, Olmert also approved a shipment of 1,000 rifles and 2 million rounds of ammunition for Abbas’ forces, particularly Fatah’s Force 17 presidential guards and the Preventative Security Services, which serve as police units in the West Bank.

Many members of Fatah’s declared military wing, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, openly serve in the Fatah security forces. The Brigades is responsible for scores of suicide bombings, deadly shootings and rocket attacks.

Israel’s army and security services strongly objected to the transfer of the armored vehicles both out of fear Hamas would seize the vehicles and because the machinery could provide cover to Al Aqsa gunmen who carry out attacks, according to senior IDF sources.

Knesset members today slammed Olmert’s decision to allow the armored vehicles.

Benjamin Netanyahu, chairman of the opposition Likud party called on parties in Olmert’s coalition government to “leave this reckless and failed government.”

National Union leader Arieh Eldad said, “The prime minister will be personally responsible for each Jew that will be harmed, and he will be put on trial for crimes against the Jewish people.”

Hamas’ vows to take over the armored vehicle transfers comes amid warnings from its leaders that the terror group is prepared to seize the West Bank if Olmert hands the strategic territory to Abbas.

“Israel thinks Fatah in the West Bank is there to serve it, but we will take over the West Bank the way we took over Gaza,” stated Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar, at a major rally in the Gaza Strip earlier this month.

Al-Zahar, who served as foreign minister in the deposed Hamas-led Palestinian government, became the most senior Hamas leader to state in recent weeks the terror group plans to seize the West Bank just as it took complete control of the Gaza Strip this past June, taking over all U.S.-backed Fatah security installations and reportedly seizing control of large stockpiles of weaponry transferred to Abbas over the years.

Al-Zahar’s statements follow a WND report last week quoting senior Israeli and Palestinian security officials stating Hamas is setting the stage for a takeover of the West Bank, which borders Jerusalem and is within rocket range of Tel Aviv and Israel’s international airport.

Israeli and Palestinian security officials told WND they have specific information Hamas is quietly setting the stages for an imminent West Bank takeover attempt. The officials said that among other things, Hamas has been acquiring weaponry in the West Bank and has set up a sophisticated system of communication between cells for a seizure attempt.

In what is considered the most threatening Hamas move, according to the officials, the terror group is thought to have heavily infiltrated all major Fatah forces in the West Bank and has been attempting to buy off Fatah militia members, many times successfully.

According to Palestinian sources, Hamas has, among other things, recruited important members of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The terror group particularly has targeted those who were against a deal this past summer in which Olmert extended amnesty to Brigades members as a gesture to Abbas.

The issue of Hamas infiltration of Fatah was thought to have been the Achilles heel that led to the terror group’s takeover last summer of the entire Gaza Strip, including dozens of major, U.S.-backed Fatah security compounds there. Hamas’ seizure is thought to be a partial consequence of Israel evacuating Gaza in 2005.

Hamas’ infiltration of Fatah was so extensive, according to top Palestinian intelligence sources speaking to WND, it included the chiefs of several prominent Fatah security forces, including Yussef Issa, director of the Preventative Security Services, the main Fatah police force. Issa regularly coordinated security with the U.S. and Israel.

WND first reported Hamas’ infiltration of Fatah in April, quoting a high-ranking Palestinian intelligence official.

A senior Abbas aide, Nabil Amr, admitted Fatah security forces are in a “state of infiltration” by Hamas.

To interview Aaron Klein, contact Tim Bueler Public Relations by e-mail, or call (530) 401-3285.

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