By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Martyrs Brigades calls on PA to release jailed “fighters” to “defend J’lem.”
The armed wing of Fatah, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, on Tuesday called on the Palestinian Authority to give back the weapons it had confiscated from the group’s gunmen so that they could participate in the “Jerusalem Intifada.” The call came as both the PA and Hamas continued to accuse Israel of planning to destroy the mosques on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
“We call on all the Palestinian security services in the West Bank to release all Palestinian fighters from prison and to give them back their weapons so that they can join their people in defending Jerusalem against Israeli aggression,” the armed group, which was supposed to have been dismantled years ago in line with understandings between the PA and the US, said in a leaflet distributed in Ramallah.
Under the terms of the understandings reached about three years ago, hundreds of members of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades handed over their weapons to the PA in return for promises that Israel would stop pursuing them and that they would be recruited as policemen in the various security forces.
Israel has since then pardoned dozens of Fatah gunmen who agreed to turn over their weapons and refrain from involvement in terror activities.
This was the first time since then that the Fatah group had called on the PA to return the weapons so that its gunmen could resume armed attacks on Israel.
The group also called on its members to “resist Israeli attempts to turn Jerusalem into a Jewish city and to respond to the series of Israeli assaults on Islamic and Christian holy sites.”
Although the PA leadership has been calling on Palestinians to demonstrate against Israel’s alleged scheme to destroy the mosques on the Temple Mount, Palestinian security forces have banned street protests in many Palestinian cities, eyewitnesses told The Jerusalem Post.
They quoted PA security officials as saying that demonstrations were only allowed in areas under Israeli control, including Jerusalem, and that there was no need to protest inside Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
Hatem Abdel Kader, a top Fatah official in Jerusalem and the former PA minister for Jerusalem Affairs, confirmed that the PA security forces were stopping Palestinians from demonstrating in many parts of the West Bank.
Abdel Kader said that the PA and several Palestinian factions were preventing the Palestinians from venting their anger and frustration over Israel’s measures in Jerusalem, including the inauguration of the Hurva Synagogue and plans to build new homes in Jewish neighborhoods in the city.
The Fatah official said that divisions between Fatah and Hamas were also torpedoing Palestinian efforts to launch a new intifada and stand united against Israel.
Hamas and Fatah have already begun referring to the recent wave of violence as al-Quds (Jerusalem) Intifada.
Abdel Kader told Post that he later received a phone call from Tayeb Abdel Rahim, an aide to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, threatening to punish him for stating that the PA was preventing anti-Israel demonstrations in its areas.
“This man thinks he’s the military governor of the West Bank,” Abdel Kader said. “Instead of dealing with the important issue of Jerusalem, Abbas’s office is threatening to punish me for telling the truth. They forgot that I’m an elected member of parliament and that I’m in charge of the Jerusalem portfolio in Fatah.”
The PA leadership in the West Bank on Tuesday sent copies of a letter to members of the Quartet – the US, EU, UN and Russia – urging them to intervene to stop Israel from “creating new facts on the ground, particularly in Jerusalem.” Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat headed with the letters to Moscow, where representatives of the Quartet are scheduled to meet next week. The letter accuses Israel of continuing to expand existing settlements and claims that Israeli authorities are working to “Judaize” Jerusalem.
Abbas Zaki, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, predicted that the violence, which broke out in Jerusalem in the past few days, would escalate “if Israel insisted on pursuing its scheme to rebuild the so-called Temple Mount.”
Zaki and several Fatah and PA officials have in recent days claimed that the inauguration of the newly renovated synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem was part of a conspiracy aimed at destroying the Aksa Mosque.
“The battle for Jerusalem is the battle of all Palestinians and Arabs, regardless of their religion,” Zaki said. “We are facing huge challenges that need to be confronted.”
Hamas also urged Palestinians on Tuesday to step up the protests against Israel’s measures in Jerusalem. The appeal came after the Islamist movement called for a day of “rage” in Jerusalem on Tuesday to protest plans to build new homes in Ramat Shlomo and the inauguration of the old synagogue.
The armed wing of Hamas, Izaddin al-Kassam, said recent events in Jerusalem will lead to “a new explosion in the face of the Zionist entity.” The group called on the PA to stop security coordination with Israel and to allow armed gangs to resume terror attacks against Israelis.
Ahmed Bahr, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, called for a “military strike” against Israel. He claimed that Israel had just built a synagogue on the Temple Mount as part of its plan to destroy the Aksa Mosque. He also called on the Arab countries to withdraw their support for holding indirect talks between Israel and the PA.