TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has quietly continued a controversial practice of granting amnesty to terrorists as a gesture to help bolster Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Last week, Israel pardoned 13 members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the declared military wing of Abbas’ Fatah organization.
According to information obtained by WND, seven of the pardoned gunmen were directly responsible for killing Israelis, while 11 of the 13 are accused of collaborating in attacks in which Israelis were murdered.
WND has learned that among those pardoned was Rabi Hamed, who was the deputy commander of the Al Aqsa Brigades in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Hamed served under the Brigades chief in Ramallah, Kame Ranem. Hamed directly carried out scores of shooting attacks against Israelis, according to both sources in Israel and in the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Last week’s amnesty was the second round granted to Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorists since Netanyahu came to office. The Israeli leader is continuing the policy of pardoning Fatah gunmen, a policy first initiated by his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, in hopes of moderating Fatah and boosting Abbas against his Hamas rivals.
Many of the Brigades members pardoned by Olmert continued their involvement in anti-Israel terrorism after receiving amnesty.
Olmert granted hundreds of Brigades members temporary amnesty on condition they disarm, refrain from attacks and spend three months in PA detention facilities and another three months confined to the West Bank city in which they reside. If the terrorists completed their side of the deal, Olmert’s office would grant permanent amnesty, allowing them freedom of movement in the West Bank and taking them off Israel’s most wanted list of terrorists to ensure they are not arrested.
About 45 percent of the temporarily pardoned terrorists received permanent Israeli amnesty in coordination with Olmert’s office and Israel’s Shin Bet Security Services. Olmert granted the amnesty in spite of information dozens of terrorists granted full amnesty were later involved in attacks or foiled attacks.
Israel Defense Forces has arrested a number of pardoned Al Aqsa Brigades members carrying arms and planning terror attacks, according to security sources. In one instance, Brigades member Fadi Al-Kene was nabbed after he was caught smuggling explosives in the West Bank city of Nablus, the biblical Shechem. Al-Kene was carrying a small pistol at the time of his arrest.
WND previously quoted security sources stating Israel’s Shin Bet Security Services passed information to Abed al-Razeq El-Yehia, the PA’s minister of internal security, allegedly showing Brigades members granted amnesty have been communicating with Hezbollah, receiving instructions and funds from the Lebanese group.
Pardoned Brigades terrorists were also accused of involvement in multiple shootings against Israeli civilians. In September 2007, for example, three Israelis – two women and a man – were ambushed by Palestinian gunmen as they were driving between the West Bank Jewish communities of Karnei Shomron and Kidumim. According to Brigades sources, the attack was carried out by Brigades snipers.
Just after that attack, Brigades members, including those on Olmert’s amnesty list, carried out a series of attacks against the IDF, according to Brigades sources. The attacks included shootings and the lobbing of grenades at IDF patrols.
As WND reported, 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.
Several major attacks against Israel by pardoned Brigades members were recently foiled, including an attempted Tel Aviv suicide bombing in December 2008 and an attempt a few months earlier to poison an Israeli restaurant.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is classified as a terrorist organization by the State Department. The Brigades, together with Islamic Jihad, took responsibility for every suicide bombing in Israel in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The group is responsible for scores of deadly shootings.
Many Brigades members serve openly in the U.S.-funded militias of Fatah and the PA.