Israel’s government last week provided American-made weapons, including hundreds of M-16 automatic machine guns, to the Fatah organization in Gaza. It did so despite the fact that the military wing of Fatah, the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, has been on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations since March of 2002.
Yet Israeli officials were quick to defend the move. An Israeli government official justified the transfer of arms to an anti-Israel terrorist group on the grounds that the Israeli government wants to strengthen the head of Fatah (and thereby the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades), Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, in the rivalry between Abbas's factions and Hamas. Similarly, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert explained that the arms shipment was meant to "bolster security forces loyal to Abbas amid an increasingly violent power struggle between the PA chairman's Fatah party and Hamas."
There is an important flaw in the Israeli government’s reasoning. Al Aksa Brigade members give no sign that they will cease their continuing terror attacks against Israel. Nor is there any indication that they will halt the missile attacks against Israeli civilian targets, which emanate from Gaza and for which they have long taken credit. It is also unlikely that the brigades will suspend their alliance with the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, the most recent product of which was the April 19th bombing of a Tel Aviv restaurant in which 11 people were murdered, including 16-year-old American Daniel Wultz.
On the contrary, in an interview with World Net Daily, one of Al Aksa’s leaders, Abu Yousuf, hinted that the weapons supplied by Israel have already been used in two shooting attacks in the past few days. One attack killed a 35-year-old Israeli Arab citizen on a major West Bank highway on the outskirts of Jerusalem this past Sunday. “These weapons will not be used in an internal war but against Israelis,” bragged Yousuf. Yousuf further explained that Israel transferred the weapons to his Force 17 unit "for its own political purposes. We are not concerned with the reasons. The weapons will not be used against our brothers, only [against] Israelis.”
In another embarassing blow to Israel this week, Abbas named Mahmoud Damra to head his armed forces. Damra is on Israel's most wanted list of terrorists, wanted in the murder of nine Israeli civilians in the fall and winter of 2000. On close terms with the late Palestinian terrorist leader, Damra was offered shelter in Arafat's compound in Ramallah in 2002 after Israel accused him of masterminding a string of terrorist attacks. Numerous queries to the office of the Israeli Prime Minister to comment on the Damra appointment have gone unanswered.
It remains unclear whether the U.S. government had approved the transfer of American-made weaponry to a terrorist organization. A source at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told FrontPageMag.com that any such action would be viewed as a serious felony. There has not yet been a formal response from the State Department, but the consequences could be serious. Supplying weapons to a terrorist organization could result in U.S. sanctions against Israel, for instance, something that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may not have considered.
As the fallout from the weapons transfer mounts, the Israeli government’s decision increasingly looks indefensible.
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