The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) has changed its stance for the second time and has agreed to accept more Fatah terrorists into the areas under its control. The terrorists will go to Jericho, however, and not to Ramallah, as originally requested.
After day-long talks with Israeli authorities, PA officials agreed to accept approximately 120 terrorists of the Fatah-aligned Hilles clan that fled to the Jewish State after a crushing Hamas attack on its compound. Some 30 others were returned to Gaza; Hamas placed them under arrest and then released most of them, leaving 4-5 in Hamas prisons, where their lives are not guaranteed. Another 30 or so, largely women and children, are also to be returned to Gaza.
PA Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas originally said he would accept the Gaza-based terrorists but then refused. Voice of Israel Radio's Danny Zaken reported that the Hilles clan did not oppose the Hamas takeover of Gaza from Fatah last year, and Abbas therefore saw no obligation to come to their aid now.
The agreement to send the refugee terrorists to Jericho renders moot a petition filed over the weekend by left-wing groups, demanding that Israel not return them to Gaza. The petitioners said that the dangers facing the terrorists in Gaza morally obligate Israel to retain the men in its own territory. The Supreme Court had ordered Defense Minister Ehud Barak to respond to the petition by this afternoon, but the order was later rescinded.
Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel, on the other hand, asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to order the Fatah terrorists arrested. The two claim that the Fatah men must be investigated for terrorist crimes against Israel, and that no one has the right to pardon them or exempt them from arrest. This demand, too, was rendered obsolete when it was announced that the General Security Service (Shabak) was interrogating several of the refugee Fatah men suspected of terrorist activity against Israel.
IDF Rescued Them, Israeli Hospitals Treated Them
Twenty-two of those who fled the bloody clashes with Hamas were injured and received medical care in Israel at Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva and Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon. They were evacuated by IDF soldiers under mortar fire from Hamas.
On Sunday, at the request of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and PA prime minister Salam Fayyad, both of whom accepted responsibility for the clan's security, the IDF began returning the escaped Fatah members to Gaza.
In a release later issued to the media, Israeli authorities said they halted the process when they received information that the clan members were being arrested by Hamas and that their lives were in immediate danger.
The statement said: "The Minister of Defense, Mr. Ehud Barak, ordered an immediate re-evaluation of the situation and direct discussions with Palestinian officials in order to convince them to allow the refugees entry to the Ramallah area instead. Under this instruction, the head of the Defense Ministry's Bureau for Security and Diplomacy, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, consulted with the Palestinian Prime Minister and the civil administration and started to coordinate the process."
Court Orders Israel to Free Former Hamas Minister
Meanwhile, as Fatah terrorists run from Hamas terrorists in Gaza, the court has ordered the government to free a former Hamas minister being held in the Jewish State.
According to another former Hamas minister quoted by the Reuters news agency, an Israeli judge ordered the government to release Omar Abdel Razak from prison.
"The judge believed it was enough, the period that he served in prison," said the source. "They have released him and he is on his way home." Israeli officials did not comment on the report.
Israel arrested approximately 40 Hamas officials for suspected involvement in terrorist activities after IDF Staff-Sgt. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on June 25, 2006.