TEL AVIV – A list of wanted militants from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization who were granted amnesty this weekend by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert includes almost the entire senior West Bank leadership of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group, WND has learned.
The Brigades, Fatah’s declared military wing, took responsibility for every suicide bombing in Israel the past three years. Statistically, the Brigades carried out more anti-Israel terror attacks emanating from the West Bank since 2005 than any other group, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
U.S. policy largely considers Fatah moderate, while the Brigades is classified as a terror organization by the State Department.
Olmert’s office hasn’t released the names of the 178 militants granted amnesty, but sections of the list were obtained by WND.
The list includes the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades overall chief; Brigades chiefs in several West Bank cities; the Brigades cell that sent a suicide bomber to Tel Aviv in April 2006 that killed 10 civilians, including an American teenager, Daniel Wultz; and the Brigades perpetuator of a shooting attack in December 2000 that killed Israeli nationalist leader Benyamin Kahane.
Olmert’s office issued 178 documents for the Fatah fugitives to sign, pledging their resignation from any so-called paramilitary organizations and promising to refrain from terrorism. The wanted militants also must spend a week in a PA holding area and must restrict their movements to the area in which they reside for three months. After a three-month period, they can move freely throughout the West Bank. Since most wanted militants have been confined to their residential areas the past few years anyway due to the threat of Israeli operations, the deal effectively grants them for the first time freedom of movement.
In exchange, Israel will not conduct anti-terror operations to capture the wanted militants.
Olmert granted the Fatah terrorists amnesty as part of a series of gestures to bolster Abbas in the West Bank after Hamas in June overtook all Fatah security compounds in the Gaza Strip and effectively expelled Fatah from Gaza.
At a meeting tomorrow with Abbas, Olmert is expecting to present the Palestinian leader with more gestures, including a release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
The list obtained by WND of some of the senior Fatah fighters that Olmert granted amnesty to includes:
Among the suicide bombings Senakreh is suspected of personally directing is one attack that killed two people and wounded 33 others in a crowded bus station in Jerusalem’s French Hill neighborhood.
Senakreh doubles as an officer on Fatah’s Preventative Security Services. He will continue his duties as a Fatah security officer.
Senakreh yesterday told WND he hasn’t yet signed the amnesty agreement because his brother, also a Brigades member, wasn’t among those offered immunity. He said Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat is asking Olmert’s office to grant Senakreh’s brother immunity.
Ranam signed the amnesty agreement yesterday.
Zbeidi told WND he signed the amnesty agreement.
After the Kahane murder, Yousuf was extended refuge by Yasser Arafat to live in the late PLO leader’s Ramallah compound, widely known as the Muqata. Yousuf still lives in the compound, to which U.S. assault rifles have previously been delivered as part of aid to Abbas. Yousuf doubles as an officer in Abbas’ Force 17 security detail.
Yousuf told WND he signed the amnesty agreement. He said he will continue serving in Force 17.
Although Islamic Jihad and the Brigades took joint credit for the Tel Aviv attack, Brigades sources told WND their group directed the suicide bombing, supplying the bomber and infiltrating him into Tel Aviv. The sources said Islamic Jihad provided the explosives belt as a symbolic act so the terror group could also take part in the attack.
Wultz, who was vacationing in Israel from Florida, was gravely injured in the bombing and died of his wounds about two weeks later. Wultz’s father, Tuly, was also injured in the bombing.
At the time of the bombing, Aziz called Wultz’s death a “gift from Allah” in a WND interview.
Aziz yesterday told WND he is one of the few Brigades leaders not singing the amnesty agreement, saying the document is “too good to be true.”
“I am sure this is part of an Israeli conspiracy against our fighters,” Aziz said.
Senior Olmert spokeswoman Miri Eisin would neither confirm nor deny the list of terror suspects granted amnesty obtained by WND.
“I do not know the list of names but all included will have to renounce terrorism,” Eisin said.
Eisin said Olmert granted the terror suspects amnesty “as part of developing a relationship with Abbas and the PA government in the realm of security, economy and many other levels.”
“The Israeli government is committed to cooperating with the PA just as the PA committed to international principles and they are already taking concrete steps on their side. We hope this (amnesty) deal adds to the momentum to bring about a Palestinian state living securely alongside Israel,” said Eisin.
Asked whether Olmert is willing to add more terrorists – such as Brigades chief Senakreh’s brother – to the amnesty list, Eisin replied, “there is always a possibility that more who want to renounce terror may be added. We are willing to address this issue.”
Multiple media reports yesterday stated as part of their amnesty agreement, Fatah fighters were turning their weapons in to the PA in exchange for cash payments.
Brigades members contacted by WND said about a dozen of the nearly 200 wanted militants handed in their personal weapons but said those who did are keeping assault rifles issued to them by Fatah as part of the Fatah security forces.
Asked if he will continue participating in attacks against Israel, one top Brigades leader speaking on condition his name be withheld since he just signed an amnesty agreement, replied, “If Israel doesn’t give us a reason to carry out attacks then why should we? But if we see the Israelis are looking to escalate things in the West Bank, the resistance will continue.”
Brigades No. 2 Aziz told WND even though senior leaders were signing amnesty agreements, the Brigades is not disbanding.
“We have conditions. We don’t trust the Israelis. The Brigades will not disband. We are ready to negotiate a deal of amnesty but we won’t sell out our principals and arms.”
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