The Road Map for peace called for an end to Palestinian armed activity, including for the Palestinian Authority to collect arms from terror groups and for all official Palestinian institutions to end incitement against Israel. None of which has happened. Now that Israel's disengagement from Gaza is a fact — a major question remains, what will happen the day after?
All indications point to Gaza becoming a haven for gathering Palestinian terrorist groups, as well as global terrorists affiliated with them. Many have openly stated they will be moving their bases of operations there.
The Saudi daily Al-Watan reported in the last week of June that Palestinian Authority leaders have invited all Palestinian rejectionist groups to Gaza. They include multiple groups and individuals on the U.S. list of Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations including Syrian based Hamas officials such as Khaled Mashaal and Musa Abu Marzouk, as well as leaders from the Democratic Front of the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Struggle Front.
It was also announced that the Tunis based head of the PLO, Faruq Qaddumi is moving his base of operations to Gaza. He is a possible successor and key rival to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. According to him, the PLO charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel, has not really been amended. Qaddumi will be bringing with him a “volunteer popular army” of at least 1,500 who will be under his control, according to Saudi media reports from August 3.
This follows other reports from Lebanon that additional Palestinian fighters devoted to Israel's destruction are also coming to Gaza. One report, in the Lebanese Daily Star from August 1 quoted a senior Fatah official who “did not deny rumors” and was quoted explaining, “we were informed we will be with them [other Palestinian fighters in Gaza] soon.”
Additionally in May, Arabic papers such as Al-Ayyam and Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that hundreds of Palestinians wanted for connections to terrorist attacks have joined the Palestinian security apparatus. Other jailed terrorists have been released from prison this summer. According to the Arab News of June 12, members of Islamic Jihad, who were involved with the suicide attack in February that killed five in Tel-Aviv, have been set free.
The issue of arms remains contentious as the U.S. is urging Israel to re-arm the PA while terrorists who were supposed to be disarmed under the Road Map have not yet been disarmed. In June, the PA's Foreign Minister Nasser Al-Kidwa, Yasser Arafat's nephew, explained on PA TV: “Keeping our weapons is a strategic option” and that “possession of weapons is a strategic issue.” Referring to terror groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, he explained, “the dismantling of armed organizations is not on the table because weapons are legal.”
In the days and hours leading up to disengagement, the PA leadership stated in Arabic how it views the situation. On August 12, Abbas exclaimed “Today were are celebrating the liberation of Gaza and the Northern West Bank, tomorrow we celebrate the liberation of Jerusalem.”
Similarly, during the first week of August, PA Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei in celebration of Yasser Arafat's birthday exclaimed, “Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem” adding: “We will still celebrate once we reach our goals and establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, with the return of the refugees.”
Recognizing the role of Hamas, Qurei stated: “the children of Yasser Arafat the martyr and the children of Ahmad Yassin the martyr and children of all the martyrs. Jerusalem is closer than ever…We will continue until victory. None of us will give up until we are on Jerusalem's soil.”
The leadership of Hamas has been the most open about its intentions. According to Al Jazeera.net on August 12, the groups leader, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, explained his organization is a legitimate security tool and will never disarm. After attending a training session of the military wing of Hamas, the Izz Al-din al-Qassam Brigades, he stated the Palestinians will “liberate Palestine from the Jordan River to the sea.”
The armed wing of the Fatah movement, which is a part of the PLO, issued a statement on August 15 that sums up the problems ahead: “We support our brothers in Hamas and affirm that no Palestinian armed wing will be dissolved because Palestine is not Gaza only, but rather, Palestine is Palestine from the River (Jordan River) to the Sea (Mediterranean Sea) and it is our land and we have the right to defend it.”