fatah gunmen 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Senior sources in the IDF Central Command on Saturday warned against pardoning Palestinian fugitives in the West Bank as a gesture to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The officers urged the government to wait for the Palestinians to prove their intentions by taking action to curb terrorism in the West Bank before making concessions to Abbas.
At the Sharm e-Sheikh summit three weeks ago, attended by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah II, the Palestinians also asked Israel to allow the transfer of weapons and ammunition to PA security forces in the West Bank.
Defense officials said that the ultimate goal of the deal was to pardon the fugitives and then allow them to be incorporated into the official PA security forces in the West Bank. As a first stage, the fugitives will be given a three-month trial basis during which they will need to prove that they have ceased their involvement in anti-Israel terrorism. Following that period, the Shin Bet will once again meet with the PA to discuss the wanted men's future.
The move comes as Abbas entrusted PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad with forming a new government that would replace his emergency government, whose one-month term expired on Friday night. Meanwhile, the emergency cabinet is continuing to function as a caretaker government.
Hamas condemned Abbas's decision to form a new government as "unconstitutional" and said it would not recognize any government that was not approved by the Hamas-dominated parliament.
"We have reached a deal with Israel according to which the Israeli authorities will stop chasing Fatah gunmen in the West Bank," a senior PA official told The Jerusalem Post.
"According to the deal, the gunmen will sign a document in which they pledge to refrain from military activities and to abide by the orders of President Mahmoud Abbas."
Nasser al-Kharaz, a spokesman for Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, confirmed that many of his friends had received "assurances" from the PA leadership that they would no longer be targeted by the IDF.
"Yes, there is a serious agreement to stop pursuing our men," he said. "We're talking about some 178 Fatah members in the West Bank."
Amjad Khallawi, 38, a member of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades who has been on the run for the past six years, made his first public appearance on Saturday to confirm that his name was on the list of Fatah gunmen. Khallawi had not shaved his beard or cut his hair for six years.
Khallawi, who lives in the Dehaishe refugee camp, near Bethlehem, said the PA security forces informed him that it was now safe for him to emerge from his hideout. "I will abide by the decisions of the political leadership," he said in an interview with the Bethlehem-based Maan news agency. "I was told that I will have to stay inside a Palestinian security base of one week."
Another PA official said the deal with Israel consisted of three phases: First, the fugitives would be required to stay inside a security installation for one week, during which time they would refrain from "military" activities; second, the fugitives would have to stay inside Palestinian cities classified as Area A for three months; third, the fugitives would be allowed to move around freely and travel abroad if they abide by the deal.
The PA official told the Post the list of Fatah fugitives included top members of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades such as Zubeidi, Ala Sanakreh, Kamel Ghanam, Abu Yazan Talahmeh, Ahmed Abed Rabbo, Daoud Hajj, Rabi Hamed, Raed Barghouti, Shaher Qadi, Tarek Kundah, Nassim Ahmed, Ala Tahbour and Shehab Abed.
The PA official said that all the gunmen had been recruited to various branches of the PA security forces over the past few years, but that some of them had continued to be involved in "military operations."
PA Minister for Prisoners Affairs Ashraf Ajrami met in Nablus over the weekend with representatives of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades and briefed them on the details of the agreement.
Hamas, meanwhile, is planning to convene the Palestinian Legislative Council on Sunday to discuss Abbas's decision to entrust Fayad with forming a new government. An attempt by Abbas to convene the council last week failed because of a Hamas boycott that left it short of a quorum.
Fatah legislators announced that they would stay away from Sunday's meeting. Fatah leaders said Hamas did not have the authority to convene the parliament.
"The previous administration of the Palestinian Legislative Council is illegal," said Azzam al-Ahmed, head of the Fatah parliamentary list. "Hamas's decision to call a meeting of the parliament will complicate matters in the Palestinian arena."
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.