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Peace Talks? Exiled PA Gunman Predicted Renewed Terror Attacks

Interview: An INN writer speaks to exiled member of Al Aksa, who says openly: "Their [Israel's] kids are not more important than our people."
By Samuel Sokol
First Publish: 3/26/2011, 11:45 PM / Last Update: 3/27/2011, 10:58 AM

Flash 90

The INN interview below is a chilling  example of the dangers of releasing professional terrorists and of the existing splintering in Fatah that would facilitate a Hamas takeover should Israel ever withdraw from Judea and Samaria.  

Jihad Jara, a former officer of the Palestinian Authority's Preventative Security Service and a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, threatened renewed violence several months before the recent heinous murder of the Fogel family in Itamar, a freelance writer for Israel National News has learned.

Jara was exiled to Ireland as part of deal to end the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002.

In a statement quoted on the Arabic news website Qudsnet in November, Jara, using the nom de guerre Abu Udai and cited as a "leading figure in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades," asserted that unless Israel accepted Palestinian demands, restored the "rights of return" [sic] and ceased "Judaizing Jerusalem,"  the Palestinians would be forced to "resume armed attacks against Israeli targets in the occupied Palestinian territories."

Jara stated that the brigades had "stopped the armed struggle against the occupation" in response to the "request of the Palestinian leadership, headed by Abu Mazen, to give the opportunity for the political process." However, the exiled militant warned that if Israel does not respond "to the demands of our people,” the Arabs will “return to armed operations against the occupation."

Jara asserted that Israel understands "only the language of force."

In response to a query by INN, Raed Othman, director the Palestinian Maan News Network, identified Jara as Abu Udai.

Recently, speaking to the INN writer by phone from his home in Ireland, Jara confirmed that he is indeed Abu Udai, an identity that he has used while speaking on behalf of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades over the past several years.

"It's me," he said, taking credit for the Qudsnet statement.

The former Bethlehem-based gunman confirmed that he was still involved in resistance against Israel. "I never broke the law in Ireland," he explained, "but it is my family and it is my land in Palestine, and of course I will be always looking and care to have our freedom [sic] and I will do all my might and I will have all my power to continue about what I start."

Jara said that he was still in touch with his old comrades from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, telling the Israel National News writer, "They are not just freedom fighters; they are friends, they are family, they are my brothers and, of course, I keep in touch with them and I am proud to keep in touch with them."

"We still were giving a chance to our Prime Minister and our President but I mean what I said before," he emphasized. "If the peace fails, it will bring the people to fight." 

He predicted that the Palestinians will resume operations against Israeli targets and that if Israel "will not stop killing our kids, our people", it must know that "their lives, their kids, they are not more important than our people."

The Al Aqsa Brigades of Imad Mugniyeh initially claimed responsibility for the heinous murder of 5 members of the Fogel family in Itamar, a claim which other members of the group later retracted. Jara denied any personal connection to the tragic events.

Abu Udai doesn’t represent the brigades," Abu Yazzan, a former Al-Aksa spokesman told INN. "His statements don’t represent the brigades, and currently they don’t make any statements." 

Jara responded with disbelief that Abu Yazzan would deny his connection to the West Bank terrorist organization. He subsequently expressed anger and outrage during a follow-up interview, claiming that he had spoken to Abu Yazzan and that the former spokesman had denied speaking to the media and saying that Jara was not a leader of the brigades.

The Brigades has never been a monolithic and strictly structured organization. The Fatah movement’s own fragmentation raises the likelihood that a small splinter faction engaging in terrorism could emerge. Jara would not say the size of his faction, but said he is part of Abbas' Fatah.

Rami Kamel, a compatriot of Jara and a fellow exile in Ireland, expressed approval of the Itamar attack and said that it was to be expected. "What happened today is something normal to happen after all what the Israelis [are] doing." Kamel said the night following the attack. More [such] things will happen.

"Actually, [it's] all one group, Al Aqsa Brigade," he said, "but you know how they work. Each [local branch on each] side of the country, it work[s so that] if you have a chance to do anything, you do it straightaway."

When asked for the terms of the deal that sent Jara and Kamel to Ireland and for the exact terms of the 2007 amnesty granting continued freedom to many Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades fighters, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office responded, "Neither are public documents."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told the writer that if Jeara has indeed been "sending out threats of violence, this is a very serious breach of the terms of his stay in Ireland and Irish law enforcement authorities should deal with this problem at once."

According an Irish government official quoted by Joshua Hammer in the New York Times in 2009, the Garda, Ireland's national police service, "keeps a close eye" on Jara.

A representative of the Irish Justice Department told Israel National News that  ". .. activities of individuals who may be of interest to law enforcement authorities are monitored.  Furthermore, where evidence exists of any breaches of Irish law, including any offences under the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005, these will be fully investigated by An Garda Síochána (the national police force)." 

A veteran Palestinian journalist, who spoke to the writer on condition on anonymity,  claimed, "Officially, the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades announced that they are dismantled two-and-a-half years ago, and even the attacks that were carried out were carried out by individuals and not by the organization as an organization with cells."

However, the journalist said that "The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is a jungle. Saying that Jihad Jara is involved is true, but it is not true on the other hand, and there is nothing that he was involved in [during] the last three years. Now he is involved in trying to organize the movement in the political process that has been taking place in the movement but on the ground there is nothing that is being carried out by the organization so he can say yes he did it or he was part of it."

Not everybody believes that the brigades are defunct.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key designated the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as a terrorist organization in December, saying, "the group continues to use violence as a means to achieve its political and ideological objectives, and has carried out recent and specific attacks that meet the definition of a terrorist act under New Zealand’s TSA."

The Brigades took credit for several attacks in the West Bank in 2009 and 2010, including the December 24, 2009 murder of Meir Avshalom Hai of Shavei Shomron, as well as multiple rocket attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip. Kamel says that the Gaza branch of the brigades is still connected to the branch operating in the West Bank.

Commenting on the implications of Jara's statements, Hillel Frisch, a senior research associate at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies, said to this writer that Jara's behavior “is certainly contrary to the spirit of what asylum is supposed to mean."

"Once again we have an example of the dangers of releasing professional terrorists, of fragmentation in Fatah that would facilitate a Hamas takeover should Israel permanently withdraw from Judea and Samaria as part of a peace agreement," Frisch stated.