April 10, 2005.
The process of recruiting hundreds of Fatah gunmen to the Palestinian
Authority security forces began Saturday as PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas
ordered the Finance Ministry to start paying them salaries.
“President Abbas has issued an order to treat the wanted gunmen like their
colleagues in the security forces and to pay them monthly salaries,” a top PA
official told The Jerusalem Post. “As of today, these men belong to the security
Asked if the PA was planning to confiscate the gunmen’s weapons, the official
said: “As members of the security forces, they will need to carry guns. They
will carry weapons that have been licensed by the Interior Ministry.”
Former minister Abdel Fattah Hamayel, who has been acting as a liaison
between the PA leadership and the gunmen, said there were about 500
fugitives in the West Bank and another 27 in the Gaza Strip. He said most of
the gunmen, who are wanted by Israel for their involvement in terror attacks,
had agreed to join the PA security forces and respect the law.
At the executive committee meeting, Abbas said the plight of the wanted
gunmen had been at the top of his list of priorities. “Our sons who are on the
run have won special attention from the Palestinian leadership,” he said. “We
want to achieve security for them and their families. We have reached an
agreement in principle with Israel regarding the safety of these men.”
The committee expressed appreciation for Abbas’s efforts and called on the
Fatah gunmen to abide by the rule of law. It said the gunmen should refrain
from engaging in “negative activities” so as not to provide Israel with an excuse
to avoid fulfilling its commitments in line with the Sharm e-Sheikh
Most of the gunmen belong to Fatah’s armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades.
Some of them had previously served as policemen, but defected shortly after
the beginning of the intifada to join the terrorist group.
Abbas has come under heavy pressure to crack down on the group because of
its responsibility for lawlessness and anarchy. Two weeks ago, dozens of Fatah
gunmen went on the rampage in Ramallah, destroying several restaurants and
shops before shooting at Abbas’s offices. The attackers were protesting against
Abbas’s decision to kick them out of the Mukata.