By Aaron Klein, May 30, 2007.
RAMALLAH – A long-wanted terrorist chief captured this week by Israeli forces
was trained by the U.S., served in a senior capacity on Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas’s U.S.-backed security detail, and was a ranking
member of a team that received and distributed American arms shipments the
past two years, The Jewish Press has learned.
Khaled Shawish, an officer in Abbas’s Force 17 presidential guards, was
arrested Sunday by undercover Israeli police forces following scores of shooting
attacks Shawish is suspected of carrying out.
Shawish doubles as Ramallah chief of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades terror
group. He previously boasted of involvement in a West Bank shooting attack in
December 2000 that killed Israeli nationalist leader Benjamin Kahane and
Kahane’s wife, Talya.
The Brigades, the declared “military wing” of Abbas’s Fatah party, took credit
along with the Islamic Jihad terror group for every suicide bombing in Israel the
past two years and for multiple deadly shootings and rocket attacks.
After the Kahane murder, Shawish was invited by Arafat to live in the late PLO
leader’s Ramallah compound, widely known as the Muqata.
Shawish lived in the Muqata for the past seven years. From there,
according to Israeli security officials, he directed scores of shootings against
Israelis driving on West Bank roads.
Israel says Shawish also directed a number of suicide bombings that killed eight
According to Israeli and Palestinian security sources, Shawish, as a member of
Force 17, received U.S. training in 1997 at an American-managed military base
in the West Bank city of Jericho. The base continues to train Force 17
members. Many other Brigades members who also double as Force 17 officers
have received U.S. training.
The U.S. in recent months reportedly transferred large quantities of weapons to
Fatah, purportedly to back Abbas’s military organizations in recent deadly
clashes with Hamas.
The last confirmed U.S. weapons transfer to the Palestinians took place
last May and consisted of 3,000 assault rifles, but The Jewish Press reported
that several other transfers were later made to Fatah – including a cache of
7,000 rifles last January and about 8,000 assault rifles in February.
The weapons mostly arrived in convoys through the Jordan-Israel border and
were then reportedly trucked by the Israeli Defense Forces to the Gaza Strip
and to Ramallah. The Ramallah shipments were received at the Muqata and at a
neighboring Force 17 base in which Shawish lives, according to Israeli and
Palestinian security sources.
The sources said Shawish was part of the Force 17 team that inspected and
distributed the American weapons to other Fatah militia members. According to
the sources, Shawish over the past two years has taken possession of a
number of American assault rifles.
Congress last month approved $59 million in aid to Fatah’s militias after an
earlier Bush administration pledge of $86.4 million was blocked for fear the
money might reach terrorists. The vast majority of the U.S. aid is slated to
bolster Abbas’s Force 17 security forces in clashes with Hamas.
After forging a unity government in February that ended several rounds of
deadly factional Palestinian infighting, Fatah and Hamas have engaged in heated
gun battles over the past three weeks, with dozens of Palestinians killed and
wounded in the clashes.
Israel has raided U.S.-backed Force 17 compounds on several occasions and
arrested wanted terrorists from the units. Earlier this month, the IDF arrested 18
Fatah fighters in the West Bank wanted for shooting Israeli civilians. Seventeen
of those arrested were also members of the Brigades, Israeli and Palestinian
security officials said.
Abbas last June appointed senior Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades leader Mahmoud
Damra as commander of Force 17. Damra, who was arrested by Israel in
November, was on the Jewish state’s most-wanted list of terrorists. According
to Force 17 sources, Shawish was Damra’s main deputy.
According to Israeli and Palestinian security officials, U.S.-backed intelligence
and security organizations associated with Fatah, including Force 17, are
heavily infiltrated by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations.
A top Palestinian intelligence official admitted: “We are leading a large
number of investigations and some of the results prove that such an infiltration
by Hamas (of Fatah’s security and intelligence forces) exists.”
The official oversees intelligence for Fatah’s police forces in the West Bank and
Gaza Strip. “I can say that in some cases we diagnosed a deep infiltration to
high posts in some Fatah security services,” he said. “In some cases we believe
there are officers that are exposed to very sensitive information.”
He acknowledged that in the past month “dozens” of members of
Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and Islamic Jihad were found
operating in the Fatah forces.
The Popular Resistance Committees regularly carries out rocket and shooting
attacks and took credit for a 2003 bombing in Gaza that killed three American
Muhammad Abdel El, spokesman for the Committees, said Fatah’s attempts to
discover militants from his group “have not even scratched the surface of our