Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 21, 2007
Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, announced Tuesday it would no longer honor understandings reached with Israel, and called on its members to carry weapons to defend themselves against the IDF.
"We call on all our members who handed over their weapons to the Palestinian security forces to report to their commanders so that they can be issued new weapons," said a leaflet distributed in Ramallah.
The group said the decision was made after the IDF arrested two Fatah gunmen who had been given amnesty by Israel in line with understandings reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Israel agreed last month to stop pursuing some 270 Fatah fugitives on condition that they surrender their weapons and sign a pledge to refrain from terrorist activities.
Earlier this week, the PA said Israel had "pardoned" another 110 Fatah fugitives in the West Bank - a claim that Israel denied.
The latest leaflet is seen as a challenge to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's efforts to dismantle the Aksa Martyrs Brigades and other Fatah-linked armed groups in the West Bank.
According to the group, Israel on Monday night arrested Iyad Bisharat and Ahmed Abu Jalboush, two Fatah gunmen whose names had appeared on the first list of pardoned fugitives.
"We call on all our members to display caution and not to be deceived by the so-called amnesty from Israel," the leaflet read. "We will no longer honor the agreements that were reached with Israel over the issue of the wanted men. We won't hand over our guns. This is a lie designed to split the Palestinian resistance."
The group said it had previously warned against the "plot" aimed at confiscating the weapons of Aksa Martyrs Brigades members in the West Bank. "The Israeli enemy does not respect any commitments or agreements," it said.
The Fatah group also criticized PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad's government, holding it responsible for the arrest of its two men.
"Fayad must clarify his position vis-á-vis the arrest of our men, whose names had appeared on the list of wanted men who received amnesty," it said.
An Israeli official said in response that such a move by Fatah's military wing would only escalate violence.
"Israel expects the Palestinian Authority to take proper steps to root out terrorism against Israel, and to work with Israel to chart a more promising future for both sides," an official in the Prime Minister's Office said. "Incitement such as this only serves to ratchet up the situation, and would only harm the chances for progress between both peoples."
The IDF declined comment.
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