By Khaled Abu Toameh, February 16, 2005.
About 350 Palestinian gunmen will be incorporated into the Palestinian
Authority security forces soon as part of a deal reached between PA Chairman
Mahmoud Abbas and leaders of all the Palestinian factions, The Jerusalem Post
The militiamen, who are on Israel’s list of wanted terrorists, belong to
various factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
This is the first time that members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad would serve in
the PA security forces.
PA Minister of Agriculture Ibrahim Abu al-Naja revealed that the agreement to
recruit the fugitives was achieved with the help of a top Egyptian security
delegation that visited the West Bank and Gaza Strip earlier this week.
The delegation, led by Gen. Mustafa Buhairi, deputy head of Egyptian
Intelligence, held a series of meetings with representatives of all the factions
and commanders of the security forces.
“The fugitives who will join the security forces belong to all the
Palestinian groups and factions,” Naja said. “The move is designed to protect
them against Israeli assassination attempts.”
According to Naja, who heads the Higher Committee of National and Islamic
Forces in the Gaza Strip, the fugitives included members of the armed wings of
Hamas and Islamic Jihad – Izzaddin Kassam and Al-Kuds Brigades.
The two groups are responsible for most of the suicide bombings and
rocket attacks against Israeli targets over the past four years.
“The Palestinian Authority does not distinguish between the wanted men,” he
said. “They are entitled to join the security forces because of their involvement
in the resistance.”
Abbas recently offered to absorb members of the armed wing of Fatah, the
Aksa Martyrs Brigades, into the security forces, but not all the gunmen have
accepted the proposal.
A PA security official confirmed that the PA leadership had agreed to
incorporate Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists into the security forces. He said
that Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders who met with Abbas last week in Gaza
City demanded that their followers be recruited as policemen as a condition for
accepting a temporary truce with Israel.
“There’s no reason why Hamas and Islamic Jihad gunmen can’t join the
security forces,” the official added. “They are part of the Palestinian people.
The Israelis and Americans should be happy about this move, because it means
that these men will stop all of their activities.”