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The Moderate

This is all you need to know about PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the man the West (including Israel) is trying to bolster as the “moderate” palestinian peace partner.

Members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ declared military wing, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, today denied claims by Abbas he asked the terror group to turn in their weapons, stating officials instead have encouraged them to continue their “resistance” activities.

Abbas pledged during a summit with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Monday he would immediately dismantle all militias in the West Bank not connected to security forces of his Fatah party. Abbas deputies have been telling the international media the Al Aqsa Brigades agreed to turn in their weapons in exchange for guarantees that Israel not try to arrest or kill them.

“No one from Abbas’ office ever asked us to disarm,” Nasser Abu Aziz, the deputy commander of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the northern West Bank, told WND. “We will never disarm until all issues are settled, including a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Jerusalem and the right of return for all Palestinian refugees.”

Abu Yousuf, a leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Ramallah, told WND Abbas’ claims the Brigades will disarm “are more of a message meant for the Israelis, the Americans and the international community.”

“No one (from Abbas’ office) addressed a single member of the Brigades and asked us to turn in our weapons,” he said.

Zacharias Zubeidi, leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, told WND the decree from Abbas’ office for armed groups to be dismantled “has nothing to do with the Brigades. It’s meant for Hamas. Abbas recognizes the Brigades as a legitimate source of resistance.”

This accords with this post of mine from last week.

Together with the Islamic Jihad terror group, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades took responsibility for every suicide bombing in Israel the past two years. The Brigades regularly carries out shooting attacks and has taken credit for firing hundreds of rockets from the Gaza Strip aimed at nearby Jewish population centers.

Many members of the Brigades openly serve in Fatah militias, including Force 17, Abbas’ presidential guard units which serve as de facto police officers in the West Bank.

In line with pledges made at Monday’s summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Abbas’ office today issued a decree for all armed groups to turn in their weapons.

“On the basis of the declaration of a state of emergency in the Palestinian territories, and by virtue of my authority, all armed militias, groups and brigades that do not belong in practice to the security services shall be treated as illegal organizations,” read the first order.

“The government must halt the phenomenon of armed groups, prevent the bearing of arms and confiscate guns, explosives and any type of weaponry purchased illegally, since they endanger the public order,” the decree continued.

Sources in the Al Aqsa Brigades said officials from Abbas’ office encouraged them in recent days to tell members of the international news media they are ready to hand in their weapons.

“But on the ground, not a single weapon has been turned in and it will remain this way,” a Brigades source said.

Brigades sources said Fatah officials have invited some Brigades leaders to seek shelter in PA security buildings in the West Bank.

Some Brigades members the past few years have lived regularly in PA compounds, including the Muqata, late PLO Leader Yasser Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah.

The Brigades sources said they were asked to leave the compounds last month, after the Israel Defense Forces threatened operations to arrest Brigades members. But the Brigades sources said they were told this week they could return to the PA compounds.

“It seems the threat of arrest from Israel for the time being is no longer there,” said a Brigades leader.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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