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Fatah-Affiliated Terrorists Training in Gaza for War with Israel

Terrorist belonging to Fatah, the political party led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, are training in Gaza in preparation for a war with Israel, veteran Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh reported Wednesday.

A division of Fatah’s militia, the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, recently announced the opening a new terror-training academy in Gaza, in which nearly 300 of its members are enrolled and learning different types of warfare, Abu Toameh reported. The United States, European Union, Israel, Canada, and Japan all have officially designated the Brigade to be a terrorist organization.

The Martyr Nidal al-Amoudi Division is named for a top Martyrs’ Brigade militant who carried out a series of attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers during the Second Intifada, and was killed by Israeli forces in 2008. A statement announcing the opening of the academy explained that the academy was named in his honor “to fulfill his dream of qualifying the fighters militarily, morally, religiously and revolutionarily.”

The Martyr Nidal Al-Amoudi Division is one of five Fatah-linked terrorist groups operating openly in Gaza despite the 2007 split between Fatah and Hamas, the terrorist organization that governs Gaza. Their presence is allowed, Abu Toameh explained, because “now it seems that Hamas has nothing to fear from the Fatah militants, as Israel is the sole target.”

Thus instead of training their men to retake the Gaza Strip and liberate it from the oppressive regime of Hamas, the Fatah “fighters” are busy preparing for war with Israel or fighting among themselves. Indeed, it appears that the Fatah armed groups are actually competing with Hamas for the title of “Most Prepared to Destroy Israel.” Like Hamas, they wish to win the hearts and minds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by showing that they too support the “armed struggle” against Israel and seek to “liberate Palestine.”

Some of the Fatah-related groups operating in Gaza have taken credit for firing rockets at Israel. Despite their common party identification, the groups are rivals and are often at odds.

Sources in Gaza told Abu Toameh that many of these Fatah-affiliated terrorists are former policemen who lost their jobs when Hamas took over Gaza in 2007. Fatah, which maintains that it is only legitimate Palestinian government, continues to pay former Gaza government employees that Hamas replaced with their own members. This means that foreign aid money designated for civil society efforts in the Palestinian Authority, which Fatah controls, may end up paying salaries to terrorists training to wage war against Israel.

The Martyr Nidal Al-Amoudi Division recently condemned Abbas for attending the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres, and praised terrorist Musbah Abu Sbeih, who shot and killed two Israelis earlier this month in Jerusalem.

Despite this, though, these militias are not “breakaway groups” from Fatah, Abu Toameh explained. They still use the Fatah name because they “believe that they represent the real Fatah, the one that never recognized Israel’s right to exist and holds on to armed struggle as the only way to ‘liberate Palestine.’ […]In their view, they are following the principles of their former leader, Yasser Arafat, who launched Fatah as a ‘national liberation movement’ and never truly abandoned the option of an armed struggle against Israel.”

The internal divisions reflect “wider division among Fatah’s political leaders,” Abu Toameh pointed out. Aides to Abbas blame exiled rival Mohammad Dahlan for funding the Gaza-based groups and undermining the president’s authority. Abu Toameh described the problem:

Fatah is, in fact, a two-faced hydra; one face tells the English-speaking international community what it wants to hear, namely, that it supports a two-state solution and seeks a peaceful settlement to the conflict with Israel, while the other tells the truth: it is committed to an armed struggle and the “liberation of Palestine” and is even preparing for war with Israel. Worth noting as well is that some of these Fatah militias also continue to operate in some parts of those territories controlled by Abbas’s security forces in the West Bank. And like their cohorts in the Gaza Strip, they too receive salaries from the Palestinian Authority.

This reality reflects Abbas’s eroded credibility with his own people. The lack of unity between Hamas and Fatah is “is one reason Palestinians are farther than ever from achieving an independent Palestinian state. The infighting in Fatah and the gulf separating its leaders is another.”

In September, Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, observed that the international community needed to start paying more attention to the failure of Palestinian governance, arguing in Newsweek that before peace between Israel and the Palestinians can be acheived, “what’s needed first is a plan to tackle the Palestinian political stagnation that has grown worse over a decade of international neglect.”

[Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90 ]