Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Israel and has met with Fatah leaders. But Fatah operates the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, designated by the US State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) on March 27, 2002. It remains on the US government's terrorism "watch list".
Our agency asked an American government official if the US government holds Mahmoud Abbas, the head of Fatah and of the Palestinian Authority, accountable for the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades.
The American official responded, "The US government views Abbas as the head of Fatah, and Fatah as separate and distinct from the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades."
It would seem that this American government official is not familiar with the US State Department web site. Only ten months ago, the State Department annual report on terror openly linked the Al-Aksa Brigade to Fatah. The report called the Brigades "Fatah's militant wing" and referred to terrorist attacks by "the Fatah-linked al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades."
The Link Discovered
The Fatah-Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades connection is not new.
Yael Shahar, a researcher at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, wrote in March 2002 that among the documents seized in a raid on Fatah chief Yasser Arafat's headquarters were invoices from the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades asking for reimbursement for, among other things, explosives used in bombings in Israeli cities.
Another document was addressed to Brig. Gen. Fouad Shoubaki, the Palestinian Authority's chief financial officer for military operations, and contained numerous handwritten notes and calculations, apparently added by Shoubaki's staff.
That document was the first direct proof that the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades are not a "rogue militia," as Arafat had claimed earlier. Instead, its members were found to be on the PA payroll, its activities were financed out of PA coffers, and its attacks were carried out with the knowledge and backing of Yasser Arafat's inner Fatah circle.
Another invoice discovered in Arafat's headquarters was dated 16 September 2001 and was dispatched by the Brigades to Shoubaki's office in the PA's Ramallah headquarters. It outlined expenses through September 6 and asked Shoubaki's office for money to build additional bombs, and to finance propaganda posters promoting suicide bombers.
These internal documents showed that Shoubaki was also responsible for financing the activity of the Al-Aksa Brigades in the Bethlehem region, transferring monthly salaries to the organization's activists. In addition, he was involved in purchasing a cache of weapons stolen towards the end of the year 2000 from an IDF base in the area. These weapons were later used to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians in the area of Jerusalem.
In addition, documents that Israel seized from Orient House, the PA's Jerusalem headquarters, show that the PA had transferred funds to Fatah, the Tanzim and its affiliated fighters.
Colonel Miri Eisen, then a senior Israeli intelligence officer and now a senior advisor to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, presented to the media a July 9, 2002 letter signed by Arafat that empowered a Fatah leader in Bethlehem to disburse payments to twenty-four Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades members. Eisen pointed out that in the time since the letter was sent, the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades had carried out eight suicide bombings in Israel. In addition, the group had by then carried out about 300 attacks in which Israeli civilians were killed or wounded.
"You could probably call this a terror invoice. How much does terrorism cost?" Eisen asked reporters.
Even the Council on Foreign Relations, the academic group most identified as an advocate of negotiations with the PLO, revealed in 2002:
The Al-Aksa Brigades are affiliated with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Al-Fatah faction. While the group initially vowed to target only Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in early 2002 it began a spree of terrorist attacks against civilians in Israeli cities. In March 2002, after a deadly Al-Aksa Brigades suicide bombing in Jerusalem, the State Department added the group to the US list of foreign terrorist organizations. In early 2002, the Al-Aksa Brigades' attacks killed more Israelis than those of Hamas.
Frank Admission by Fatah Leader
This week, a Fatah member and Al-Aksa Brigades terror group leader told the WorldNetDaily.com news service that the Fatah party does not recognize Israel and that any final accord that doesn't include flooding the Jewish state with millions of Palestinians will not be supported by the Fatah party.
"The base of our Fatah movement keeps dreaming of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jaffa and Acco. ...There is no change in our official position. Fatah as a movement never recognized Israel," the terrorist, calling himself Abu Ahmed, explained. He went on to say that the Al-Aksa Brigades is "one and the same" with the Fatah party.
"We are members of Fatah and there are normal organic relations between us and the Fatah. We are in the Al-Aksa Brigades because we are Fatah members. We participate in all political decisions making of the Fatah movement." Abu Ahmed told WND that Brigades members consider Abbas their legitimate leader and answer ultimately to the PA president.
PA Media and Personalities Make the Link
The Arabic-language Palestinian Authority media runs frequent news stories that feature the Fatah-Al-Aksa Brigades link.
On February 5, 2005, the official web site of the Al-Aksa Brigades featured a letter from the organization to the Fatah Revolutionary Council that quotes the late Yasser Arafat officially declaring the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades to be the "military wing" of Fatah. According to the letter, Arafat declared that the Al-Aksa Brigades would continue to follow the leadership of "the brother Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas]."
On August 4, 2005, the official web site of Fatah ran an interview with a member of the Revolutionary Council of Fatah in which he was asked about the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades. The Council member responded that the Brigades remain an integral part of Fatah, and that Fatah takes pride in them.
On November 26, 2005, in an Islam Online news feature, a prominent Palestinian pundit noted that a victory in the forthcoming election for the Fatah will be a victory the leaders of the Al-Aksa Brigades.
From the clearly documented connection between the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades and Fatah, it would seem that Secretary Rice would be hard pressed to defend herself against an allegation that she violates American law by sanctioning those operating an organization designated by her own State Department as a terrorist group.