Mahmoud Abbas and Barack Obama
JERUSALEM – Members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ militia, classified by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization, have been brandishing weapons publicly in recent days despite a disarmament agreement with Israel, WND has learned.
Dozens of members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the declared military wing of Abbas’ Fatah party, have been seen wielding weapons in the region of Nablus, or biblical Shechem, in the northern West Bank. The city serves as the main Brigades stronghold.
The Brigades are responsible for scores of suicide bombings and deadly shootings targeting Israeli civilians. The group took credit, many times jointly with the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad organization, for nearly every suicide bombing in Israel in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
According to informed Israeli security sources, messages were passed to the PA by the Israel Defense Forces and Israel’s Shabak security services that the armed Brigades members must lay down their weapons or face arrest.
Israeli security officials fear the newfound militancy of the Brigades – evidenced by their publicly brandishing weapons – may be a strategic decision on the part of the PA to orient itself in a more extremist direction following Barack Obama’s championing of unrest that toppled pro-Western regimes in Egypt and Tunisia.
Indeed, last week, a senior PA official told WND his group was considering taking a more militant public stance to distance itself from the Obama administration.
The U.S. provides arms, training and financial aid to the PA’s various militias. Many members of official PA security forces double as Brigades terrorists.
In 2007, then-Prime Minister Ehud 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 have arrested a number of pardoned Al Aqsa Brigades members carrying arms and planning terror attacks, according to security sources. WND reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government quietly has continued the controversial practice of granting amnesty to Brigades terrorists despite the dismal track record under Olmert.
Fatah, meanwhile, is not the only Middle Eastern group reportedly reawakening its terrorist wing.
Muslim Brotherhood awakens terrorist wing
WND reported an Egyptian Islamist terrorist organization founded by the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition in Egypt, is re-establishing itself amid the political upheaval in Cairo
Both Egyptian and Israeli security officials said the group, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, is being reconstituted at the direction of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The officials affirmed Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya serves as the de fact “military” wing of the Brotherhood, which originally founded Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya.
Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya is suspected of involvement in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and it took credit for the 1995 attempt on the life of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. It has carried out scores of deadly terrorist attacks, some targeting foreign tourists.
The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to spread Islam around the world. Hamas and al-Qaida are violent Brotherhood offshoots.
While the Brotherhood claimed it abandoned violence to push for a peaceful takeover of Egypt, the group’s new spiritual leader, Muhammad Badi, recently publicly has called for violent jihad, including against the U.S.
Earlier this month, an Egyptian security official was quoted in the news media stating Egyptian troops had arrested two armed Palestinians from Hamas who entered the country illegally from the Gaza Strip.
The security official told reporters the men had crossed from Gaza into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula using smuggling tunnels and that they were arrested in a stolen car in the town of el-Arish, near the border, along with three Egyptian smugglers.
The official told the Associated Press the two Hamas men were caught with weapons, hand grenades, two RPGs and about $8,600 in cash.
A senior Egyptian security official speaking to WND said an investigation found the two Hamas men were aiding in the reorganization of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, which, he said, is attempting to reconstitute itself under the direction of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Egyptian security official said Hamas is helping Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya organize into divisions and to arm itself with weapons currently in the Sinai waiting to be smuggled into Gaza.
Both Israel and Egypt say Hamas has amassed a large quantity of weapons in the Sinai Peninsula, where the Islamist group has been attempting to smuggle the weaponry into Gaza.
Now, the Egyptian security official said, some of those weapons are going to arm the reconstituted Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya.
Notorious terrorist attacks
Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya was founded by the Muslim Brotherhood, and is classified as a terrorist group by the U.S., European Union and Egypt. Like the Muslim Brotherhood, the group was dedicated to the overthrow of Mubarak, seeking to replace his regime with an Islamic state.
The group has carried out numerous deadly attacks.
Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya may have been involved indirectly in Sadat’s assassination. The group’s leader has talked publicly about collaborating in planning the murder with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which was blamed for the killing.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya carried out scores of terrorist acts in Egypt, including the murders and attempted murders of prominentEgyptian writers and intellectuals. The group also targeted tourists and foreigners.
In 1997, it carried out the notorious Luxor massacre in Luxor, Egypt, killing 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians. Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya went on a shooting rampage in that attack, even reportedly mutilating the bodies of victims. A note praising Islam was found inside one disemboweled body.
One year earlier, in 1996, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya carried out a shooting rampage at the Europa Hotel in Cairo, killing 18 Greek tourists.
In 1995, the group took responsibility for a car bomb attack on the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, murdering 16 people.
After a massive Egyptian crackdown on the group in 1997 following the Luxur attack, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya brokered a deal with the Egyptian government that is known as the Nonviolence Initiative, in which some leaders of the movement said they renounced violence.
Still, exiled leaders of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya maintained the group would not give up its violence.