JAFFA, Israel – The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group will not disarm or cease attacks on the Jewish state in spite of an amnesty agreement forged with Israel last month in which top Brigades members pledged to turn in their weapons and refrain from attacks, a senior Brigades leader told WND.
“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 Ayad Frehat, a Brigades leader in the West Bank city of Jenin.
“Whenever the Israeli army acts in the West Bank, we will fight side-by-side with our brothers from the other resistance movements,” Frehat told WND.
Frehat is on a list of Brigades members presented to Israel for amnesty consideration.
Last month, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert granted amnesty to 178 members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the declared “military wing” of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah’s organization, in exchange for pledges not to engage in terrorist activity.
The Brigades, along with Islamic Jihad, has taken responsibility for every suicide bombing in Israel the past three years. The amnesty agreement reportedly was made as an Israeli gesture to Abbas’ and to bolster Fatah against Hamas in the West Bank.
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 days, security sources said.
Today, 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.
Last week, 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 last week Olmert was considering granting amnesty to hundreds more Brigades gunmen. Today, Palestinian Information Minister Riyad al-Maliki told Israel’s Haaretz daily Olmert agreed to take 110 more Brigades terrorists off Israel’s wanted list. A spokesman for Olmert denied the report, but Maliki maintained the agreement was reached on Friday. Olmert’s office last month first denied reports it granted amnesty to certain Brigades leaders, but later admitted that amnesty had indeed been given.
According to statements by Palestinian officials and reports by the media, most Brigades terrorists on the amnesty list turned in their weapons in line with the deal.
A widely circulated AP article this past weekend quoted a senior Palestinian security official stating “all but three Al Aqsa members have surrendered their weapons and sworn off violence, as part of the arrangement.”
But recent calls to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades members who received amnesty yielded a much different story.
Abu Yousuf, a senior leader of the Brigades in Ramallah, told WND most Brigades members turned in one of several pieces of weaponry they possess. He said most Brigades members have two to three guns, including one to two personal weapons and one assault rifle issued by the PA, since the majority of Brigades members are also members of Fatah’s security forces.
“It’s true Brigades members turned in one of their weapons as a symbolic act, but they kept the others,” he said.
Yousuf is suspected of shooting at Israeli forces operating in Ramallah. He carried out a shooting attack in northern Samaria in December 2000 that killed Benyamin Kahane, leader of the nationalist Kahane Chai organization.
Ala Senakreh, overall chief of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank and one of the terrorists granted amnesty, told WND the one weapon he turned in to the PA is “easily accessible.”
“It’s close by and available to me anytime I need an additional weapon,” he said.
Senakreh said aside from “protecting” himself from Israel, weapons were also needed for protection from rival clans and members of Palestinian families of suspected “Israeli collaborators” killed in recent years by the Brigades.
“We killed several collaborators, so now I am a walking target. What if one of the family members tries to take revenge?” he asked.
Kamal Ranam, chief of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Ramallah, laughing, said he is still armed.
Not all Brigades members even signed their amnesty deals.
Nasser Abu Aziz, the No. 2 leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Senakreh’s main deputy, told WND he will not sign the agreement, calling the deal “an Israeli trick.”
“I am sure this is part of an Israeli conspiracy against our fighters,” Aziz said.
Won’t ‘look with a microscope’
Regardless of whether or not Olmert grants amnesty to more militants, according to Palestinian officials the Israeli prime minister already has given de facto immunity to the entire Brigades terror group and to all Fatah fighters in the West Bank.
“We were directly told Fatah fighters will not be targeted regardless of official amnesty,” the Palestinian official said, speaking on condition his name be withheld.
One senior Palestinian diplomat close to Abbas said officials from Olmert’s office pledged to Palestinian leaders the Jewish state would not “look with a microscope” at whether Brigades members keep the agreement.
“Olmert’s team told us they will not look into the disarming process with a microscope for single problematic cases. They said they will look at the macro not the micro level. Israel said if some wanted guy was still acting (committing attacks against Israel), they won’t explode everything just for that,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition his name be withheld.
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