March 30, 2003
One of the top commanders of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, the largest
faction of the PLO, says hundreds of Palestinians living in Lebanon have been
sent to Iraq to carry out suicide attacks against American and British soldiers,
according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.
Col. Munir Maqdah told the Nazareth-based as Sennarah weekly that Fatah has
decided to “strike at American interests all over the world.” He added:
“Resisting the American aggression on Iraq supports the Palestinian
people and the intifada. What is happening in Iraq is the battle of the Palestinian
people first and the Arab and Muslim nation second.”
Maqdah said his men were already in Baghdad, prepared to launch suicide
attacks, and that another group of Fatah suicide bombers is due there shortly.
Palestinian sources said the Fatah volunteers entered Iraq through Syria.
Fatah, which is the first Palestinian group to recruit women for suicide
missions, has several thousand militiamen in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee
camps, and is headed by Arafat, who also holds the title of chairman of the
Palestinian Authority. Most of the Fatah gunmen continue to receive their
salaries from the PLO.
Fatah is responsible for a number of suicide attacks against Israel over the past
30 months. Palestinians say some of the attacks were carried out on the
personal instructions of Maqdah, according to the Post.
Last week, Israeli security forces announced the capture of a Fatah teenager
sent with a suitcase filled with explosives to blow up a home for 180 orphans
and homeless children in Jerusalem.
Leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad have repeatedly urged Iraqis to endorse the
suicide attacks as an effective weapon against the Americans and British
On Friday, tens of thousands of Palestinians, chanting, “Oh beloved Saddam,
bomb Tel Aviv” and “Death to America,” rallied in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip in their biggest show of support ever for Iraq. They burned effigies of
President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
During ‘Gulf War I,’ Arafat – virtually alone among even Arab leaders – threw his
lot in publicly with Saddam Hussein.
“We will enter Jerusalem victoriously and raise our flag on its walls. …
We will fight you with stones, rifles, and ‘El-Abed’ ,” Arafat said at the start of that war, according to a March 29, 1990,
Associated Press report.
A few days later, on April 2, Saddam responded publicly to Arafat’s expression
of loyalty, saying, “In the name of Allah, we shall cause fire to devour half of
Israel,” according to the Iraqi News Agency.
The next day, Arafat replied, “We say to the brother and leader Saddam
Hussein – go forward with Allah’s blessing.”
Though Iraqi Scud missiles assaulted Israel during that brief war, the Jewish
state did not respond militarily, at the urging of the U.S. However, Sharon has
made plain that such restraint on Israel’s part would not be forthcoming in the
event of an Iraqi attack on Israel in the current conflict.
In recent weeks, the Bush administration has explained repeatedly that, after
deposing Saddam and ending his support for terrorism, the U.S. president’s No.
1 priority in the region will be to facilitate the creation of an independent
Palestinian state. Repeated polls show a large majority of Palestinians today
favor terrorism as a means of attaining political goals.