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February 14, 2022 11:52 am
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Media Obfuscates Palestinian Authority Chief Abbas’ Ties to US-Designated Terrorist Group

avatar by Akiva Van Koningsveld

Opinion

President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 18, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman/Pool

In a rare daytime operation, Israeli forces last week killed three Palestinians in the West Bank who were members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, and accused of carrying out several terror attacks against Israeli targets.

While the development received widespread media coverage, one element was conspicuously missing from most articles: the direct connection between the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades — deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, the European UnionCanadaNew ZealandIsrael, and Japan — and the ruling Fatah faction of Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.

Indeed, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Fatah’s so-called “military wing,” is responsible for many atrocities.

And Abbas is Fatah’s leader.

First the facts: The Israel Police said that the Palestinians targeted in the mission — identified by local sources as Ashraf Mubaslat, Adham Mabrook, and Mohammad Al Dakhil — belonged to a terrorist cell and had “tried to open fire” at members of the Israeli counter-terrorism unit that confronted them while they were driving in a car.

Israeli forces subsequently seized two M-16 rifles from the vehicle. A fourth member of the terrorist cell, Ibrahim al-Nablusi, reportedly escaped.

According to a police statement, the three Palestinians killed had perpetrated “a series of shooting attacks in the [Nablus] area against the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli civilians in recent weeks.” Over the prior 14 days, Palestinians had carried out at least five shootings against Israelis in the West Bank.

Pictures circulating on social media showed Mubaslat, Mabrook and Al Dakhil posing with assault weapons. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, soon after the incident, claimed the Palestinians as their members and vowed to avenge the deaths of the “heroic martyrs.” On Wednesday, the terror group issued a statement taking responsibility for another attack on an Israeli military vehicle in the northern West Bank.

A Fatah spokesperson furthermore confirmed that the three Palestinians killed on Tuesday were card-carrying Fatah members.

Nevertheless, the Associated Press in an article about the Israeli operation described the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades as “an armed group loosely tied to [Palestinian Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party.” [emphasis added]

Other outlets did not connect the dots at all, and instead presented the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades simply as the armed wing of Fatah, with no mention that Abbas leads the Palestinian faction that, in turn, rules the PA.

In a February 9 article, CNN reported that the three men killed in Nablus “belonged to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade[s], the armed wing of the Fatah organization.” The British Broadcasting Corporation, for its part, described the terror group as “the military wing of the Palestinian Fatah faction.”

None of the articles mentioned that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is widely designated as a terrorist organization and has committed numerous deadly attacks on Israeli civilians (see, for example, herehere, and here).

As HonestReporting pointed out in a Twitter thread, it is imperative to note that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is not just “loosely tied” to Fatah and the Palestinian Authority.

In fact, the distinction between the two is artificial.

Just ask former PA prime minister Ahmad Qurei, who in 2004 openly acknowledged that “we are committed to them [the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades] and Fatah bears full responsibility for the group.” The IDF previously highlighted Fatah’s “systematic, institutionalized and ongoing financing” of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. An investigation found that Fatah allocated up to $50,000 a month to the terror group.

In a statement issued during the 2014 Hamas-initiated conflict with Israel, the Brigades claimed that “Fatah’s Central Committee, Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, and the regional Fatah leadership are supporting us, and they praised our Brigades’ efforts to attack the oppressing enemy.”

Brigades official in Gaza Abu Al-Muntasir’ Amar explained in 2017: “The rifle of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades exists alongside Fatah’s political track. The actualization of the political achievements of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause is top priority for the Brigades, which will continue to be a bulwark for the Palestinian leadership, headed by Mahmoud Abbas.”

Later that year, Abbas received in his office Rafat Jawabra, a former commander of the Brigades, who spent 15 years jailed in Israel for his role in plotting a failed suicide bombing attack on a supermarket.

Barely five months ago, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades was allowed to hold a “military exercise” in the streets of Jenin while Palestinian Authority security forces stood by idly — in contravention to their obligations under the Oslo Accords. Meanwhile, the Fatah Commission of Information and Culture posted pictures of the drills to its Facebook page.

More recently, Fatah praised Zakaria Zubeidi, who during the Second Intifada planned an Brigades attack that killed six Israelis. A Fatah Twitter account posted a photo of PA President Abbas together with Zubeidi.

It should surprise nobody that the PA president seemingly prefers the cause of terrorism to that of peace. In fact, just last week at a meeting of Palestinian officials Abbas reiterated: “If we are left with one penny, we will pay it to the heroic prisoners” — a reference to Ramallah’s policy of paying “salaries” to terrorists and their families under the “pay-for-slay” scheme.

It is time for media organizations to stop downplaying the reality of Palestinian officialdom’s overt support for murder.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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