Terrorists Confirm They Are Soldiers of the Palestinian Authority
by Itamar Marcus
The Palestinian Authority (PA) and its leaders openly admit that all the imprisoned Palestinian terrorists are their soldiers who they sent to fight and even kill Israelis. The terrorists are defined in PA law as the “fighting sector … of the Palestinian society.” Since the terrorists are “soldiers,” the PA also demands — without any legal basis–- that the terrorists be treated as “prisoners of war.”
Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has shown that the PA justifies its “pay-for-slay” terror reward policy by explaining that “it is impossible to send a soldier to war and then not take care of his family” [Deputy Prime Minister Nabil Abu Rudeina –see below]. The question is, do the terrorists themselves, even members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, agree that they are all soldiers of the PA?
Released terrorist Hussein Suleiman Al-Zre’I, a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) – an internationally designated terror organization — spoke with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas in a televised phone conversation. Three times during the conversation, Al-Zre’i stressed to Abbas that the imprisoned terrorists see themselves as “your loyal soldiers.”
Al-Zre’i, who served 19 years in prison for carrying out shooting and mortar attacks, further emphasized that as Abbas’ and Fatah’s “soldiers” they “will continue on this path” –- meaning the path of terror. Mahmoud Abbas’ response was to praise the terrorist for doing his part: “It is a great and important part”:
Released prisoner Hussein Suleiman Al-Zre’i: “May Allah bless you, Your Honor the President. You are the symbol of the existing leadership, and we’ll remain your loyal soldiers. We are aware of the positions you have held on the prisoners’ cause, and on the cause of the salaries of the Martyrs and prisoners … Allah willing, our aspirations of establishing the Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem will be realized under your leadership, and we will remain soldiers loyal to you, your leadership, and all the members of the [Fatah] Central Committee. Our struggle is part of the Palestinian people’s struggle and part of the struggle of our [prisoners’] movement, which is fighting and attempting to reach a state through its struggle, and we will continue on this path. This is what Fatah has accustomed us to … [My] struggle, 19 years [in prison], is a tiny part of the deep and great struggle that you have led…”
Mahmoud Abbas: “May Allah bless you. It is not a tiny part, it is a great and important part, and it is a brick in building the great palace that will come about without a doubt: the independent Palestinian state. There is no doubt we’ll get rid of them and their occupation, and no doubt our flag [will fly above] Jerusalem…”
Hussein Suleiman Al-Zre’i: “We will triumph and Fatah will triumph … We support you and will remain your loyal soldiers until the end.” [emphasis added]
[Facebook page of the Fatah Movement – Northern Gaza Strip Branch, Dec. 20, 2021]
The families of the terrorists also see their children as soldiers of the PA. This was made clear by Munir Zgheir, the father of terrorist Ashraf Zgheir, who stressed that both his terrorist son and all the other imprisoned terrorists are “soldiers”:
We were surprised that he was a fighter and that he was one of the soldiers ending the occupation. [This is what] we call all our prisoners, and they are considered soldiers ending the occupation. They have a right to fight against the occupation in their land according to Article 81 of the Geneva Convention, which gives them authority to fight in their land. Therefore, they are actually soldiers … I say to the entire world: Our guys in prison, our prisoners, including my sons, are the best people in the land. They are a school for virtues, a school for giving, a school for altruism. [emphasis added]
[Official PA TV, Jerusalem Prisoners, Dec. 27, 2021]
The “soldier” who earned the adulation of his father, Ashraf Zgheir, is a Palestinian terrorist and Hamas member who drove suicide bomber Iyad Raddad to Tel Aviv’s Allenby Street on Sept. 19, 2002, where Raddad boarded a bus and detonated a bomb, murdering 6 people and wounding 84 others. Zgheir is an Arab resident of Israel and used his Israeli residency status to be able to move around freely and select targets. Zgheir attempted to facilitate two additional suicide bombings that were thwarted by the Israeli security forces. Zgheir is serving six life sentences.
While Hamas and PIJ are very distinct from and — within Palestinian politics — even hostile towards Fatah, in the context of the conflict with Israel, as is illustrated by the comments of Al-Zre’I and the father of Zgheir, even the Hamas and PIJ terrorists see themselves as “soldiers” of the PA.
Another Israeli Arab terrorist Karim Younes who was recently released from prison, was interviewed on the PA TV program “Giants of Endurance,” which is dedicated to the terrorist prisoners and their families. Younes likewise said that the terrorist prisoners are “their soldiers” — i.e., Abbas’ Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad — and “they did what they did on the orders from them”:
Terrorist murderer Karim Younes: “I say that all the Palestinian factions need to look at the prisoners. I don’t want to say out of sympathy, because the prisoner is not begging to gain his freedom. But rather this is the duty of all the officials to work for [their] freedom. These are their prisoners. These are their soldiers. They did what they did on orders from them. Therefore all the factions, whichever they may be, need to take more serious action.” [emphasis added]
The statement is very significant considering the identity of the person. Karim Younes is an Israeli Arab citizen who spent 40 years in prison for kidnapping and murdering Israeli soldier Avraham Bromberg while he was on leave. Younes is a Fatah member — meaning he sees himself as Abbas’ soldier. When he was released on Jan. 5, 2023, Younes was the most veteran of all the prisoners.
Clearly, despite holding Israeli citizenship — which he refers to as the “most hated … racist citizenship,” Karim Younes like the others sees himself as a soldier of the Palestinians and of the Palestinian Authority.
To explain why the terrorists see themselves as the “soldiers” of the PA, one need look no further than the PA Law and Prisoners and Released Prisoners from 2004 and statements of the PA officials.
Section 2 of the Law of Prisoners and Released Prisoners number 19 of 2004 — the same law that codified the PA’s “pay-for-slay” terror reward payments — states: “The prisoners and released prisoners are a fighting sector, and an inseparable part of the Palestinian society, and this law is meant to ensure dignified lives for them and their families.”
Abbas himself has made clear that he and the PA see the terrorists as “soldiers” of the PA, and sent by the PA, when he explained the rationale behind demanding that Israel release all the Palestinian terrorists:
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas: “I demand [the release of] prisoners because they are human beings, who did what we, we, ordered them to do. We — the [Palestinian] Authority…
This is war. One [i.e., Israel] ordered a soldier to kill, and I ordered my son, brother, or others, to carry out the duty of resistance. This person killed and the other person killed. So why say this person’s hands are stained with blood, and [he] must be kept in prison? He is a fighter just like any other fighter.” [emphasis added]
[Official PA TV, Feb. 14, 2005]
The PA Minister of Information and Deputy Prime Minister Nabil Abu Rudeina further clarified the PA position in a meeting with Israeli journalists when he said — referring to the demand that the PA stop paying the salaries of the terrorists — that the terrorist prisoners are “soldiers” who acted “on our behalf and receive orders from us”:
“It is impossible to send a soldier to war and then not take care of his family. We are talking about someone who acts on our behalf and receives orders from us.“
[Kan (Israeli TV), April 16, 2019]
The Chairman of the PA-funded Prisoners’ Club Qadura Fares again reaffirmed the PA position insisting the terrorist prisoners are “soldiers” who “fought according to instructions” from the Palestinian leadership. [Facebook page of the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Feb. 2, 2021]
While the PA sees the terrorists as “soldiers,”and while the terrorists see themselves as “soldiers,” PMW examined the claim that the terrorists should indeed be considered as “soldiers” and enjoy the protection of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949 Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (GCIII) and found that the claim has no legal basis.
Among the other sources analyzed, PMW even quoted the former Palestinian Authority Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs, Ashraf Al-Ajrami, who under cross-examination in 2018 by PMW’s Head of Legal Strategies Maurice Hirsch hesitantly admitted that of the thousands of terrorists arrested or held in prison during his tenure as the Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs “perhaps fewer” than five fit the GCIII legal definition of being a soldier entitled to the status of a “prisoner of war”:
PMW Head of Legal Strategies Maurice Hirsch: “Does the Palestinian Authority view the murderer prisoners, as Prisoners of War? If they are soldiers and are captured by the other side that’s called a prisoner of war. Is it not?”
Former PA Minister of Prisoners and Released Prisoners’ Affairs Ashraf Al-Ajrami: “Listen, that’s a definition from Geneva Convention Number 3. It defines what a prisoner of war is, or what that is- also Geneva Convention Number 4 from 1949 (sic., it deals with civilians in war zones). In the Palestinian Authority they say that the Palestinian prisoners are prisoners of war, but I was [the PA] minister [of Prisoners’ Affairs] and I know – I was also a prisoner myself – I know the difference between Convention Number 3 and Convention Number 4. Number 3 says that if you capture someone who has a uniform-”
Jerusalem District Court Vice President Judge Moshe Drori: “The Third Convention is the Prisoners of War Convention, the Fourth Convention is during wartime. Sir, you are not correct.”
Judge: “Because aside from having a weapon he (i.e., the prisoner of war)… intended to observe the rules of warfare. That is an additional condition; you simply did not say it.”
Al-Ajrami: “Yes, yes, I didn’t finish, okay. Therefore [there are] also those who perhaps some of them will be defined as prisoners of war and some not. But the large part of them are actually political prisoners-”
Judge: “One moment, I simply didn’t understand. You were the Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs; what was the largest number of prisoners during your time – 2,000, 3,000, 10,000, how many were there?”
Al-Ajrami: “Twelve thousand.”
Judge: “Twelve thousand. Of them, how many people carried out an attack while wearing a uniform and openly having a weapon? (i.e., conditions for being recognized as a POW) Ten? Five?”
Al-Ajrami: “Fewer perhaps.”
Judge: “How many?”
Al-Ajrami: “I don’t know.”
Judge: “Excellent. Let’s say 10 out of 12,000. So 11,900 (sic., 11,990) are not prisoners of war?”
Al-Ajrami: “No, certainly not.”
Judge: “So they are not prisoners of war?”
Al-Ajrami: “According to the international definition no.”
[Excerpt of Jerusalem District Court protocol, civil suit 3367-09, Feb. 7, 2021]
Itamar Marcus is the Founder and Director of Palestinian Media Watch, where a version of this article first appeared.