JERUSALEM – Members of the most active West Bank terror organization are set to participate in security forces being deployed to protect President Bush during his visit to the Palestinian territories next month, WND has learned.
Bush is due in the region Jan. 9 as part of a follow-up to last month’s U.S.-led Israeli-Palestinian Annapolis summit.
During his trip, the American president is scheduled to hold talks with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem, and meet quickly with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
According to Israeli security officials coordinating deployments of forces with the PA for Bush’s Ramallah visit, members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah’s declared military wing, have been called upon by the PA to participate in the protection of Bush’s convoy and in securing the perimeter during the meeting with Abbas.
The Brigades is listed as a terror organization by the U.S. State Department. The group took credit along with the Islamic Jihad terror organization for every suicide bombing in Israel between 2005 and 2006, and is responsible for thousands of shootings and rocket firings. Statistically, the Al Aqsa Brigades perpetuated more terrorism from the West Bank than Hamas, according to the Israeli Defense Forces.
Many Brigades members, including the group’s chiefs, serve openly in Fatah’s Force 17 presidential guard units and the Palestinian Preventative Security Services; thousands of Force 17 and Preventative officers are slated to secure Ramallah during Bush’s visit there.
A chief of the Al Aqsa Brigades in Ramallah who also serves as a senior officer in Force 17 confirmed to WND he has been tapped to participate in Bush’s security. The chief, who spoke on condition his name be withheld, said he is slated to patrol the road outside Abbas’ compound during the Palestinian leader’s meeting with Bush.
The Israeli Defense Forces will protect the main West Bank highway Bush’s convoy will use to approach Ramallah. Security for Bush will be largely turned over to the Palestinians once he enters Ramallah, although security plans are being heavily coordinated with the U.S.
According to Israeli security officials, over 6,000 Fatah forces will be deployed in three rings in central Ramallah to secure the area during Bush’s brief stay, including Palestinian security officers who also serve in the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
About 40 Ramallah-based Brigades leaders, including the Brigades chief scheduled to participate in Bush’s security, were granted amnesty by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in June as a gesture to Abbas, but many Brigades members, including the Ramallah-based leadership, are accused of violating the agreement by failing to disarm and by carrying out a spate of terror attacks.
Many high-profile Al Aqsa Brigades terrorists serve in Fatah’s security forces, including those in Ramallah. The current chief of Fatah’s Force 17, Abu Hayyet, is accused by Israel of planning or involvement in at least 10 deadly terror attacks, according to Israeli security officials.
Abbas last June appointed senior Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leader Mahmoud Damra as commander of Force 17, a major, U.S.-financed Fatah security force. Damra, who was arrested by Israel last November, was on the Jewish state’s most-wanted list of terrorists.
The chief of the Brigades in Ramallah also serves in the Preventative Security Services.
Bush’s upcoming visit will not be the first time a U.S. official would be protected by Brigades terrorists.
WND reported that during an October visit to the northern West Bank city of Nablus, Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, U.S. security coordinator for the Palestinian territories, was protected by a security team that included the chiefs of the Brigades in that city. Nablus is the stronghold of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Among those in Nablus protecting the route of Dayton’s convoy as official members of the Palestinian security forces were Ala Sekakreh, the Brigades’ overall West Bank chief, and Nasser Abu Aziz, no. 2 of the Brigades in the West Bank.
Speaking about his role in protecting Dayton, Senakreh told WND during a recent interview he was “impressed” with the U.S. envoy’s bodyguards.
“One of them could eat 10 of our people,” said Senakreh, who also commented he liked the “fancy” vehicle in which Dayton arrived.
Senakreh’s cell is accused of planning four suicide bombings in Israel, including an April 2006 bombing in Tel Aviv that killed eight Israelis and American teenager Daniel Wultz.
Bush’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories is his first trip here as president. He’ll spend two days with Israeli and Palestinian leaders before continuing on a larger nine-day Middle East tour that will bring him to Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
While the PA has been busy preparing for Bush’s visit, Israel security preparations for the trip kick-started earlier this month. The trip will see the second-largest police deployment in Israeli history, topped only by Israel’s 2005 Gaza evacuation, according to security officials.
At least 8,000 police officers will provide security for Bush’s visit, in addition to thousands more from local fire departments, the Jerusalem municipality and Israel’s Airports Authority.
Bush will arrive to an Israeli military parade that will close down Ben Gurion International, the country’s main airport. Sure to create a driving nightmare, Israel’s main highway from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv will be completely shut to all civilian traffic while the U.S. president’s convoy heads from the airport to Jerusalem for private meetings with Olmert and Israeli President Shimon Peres.
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