(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian gunmen in Lebanon are set to join the fighting against the IDF, the leader of the Fatah faction in Lebanon, Sultan Abu al-Aynain, announced on Tuesday.
He said Fatah, which is headed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, has thousands of fighters in Lebanon who are prepared to participate in the fighting and warned Israel against targeting Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
It is unclear whether the announcement was made in coordination with Abbas. Sources close to Abbas refused to comment on Abu al-Aynain's threats, but acknowledged that he was Fatah's "military commander" in Lebanon.
The sources pointed out that in the past, Abu al-Aynain had dispatched Palestinians to Iraq to fight against US troops.
"We are interested in defending our camps and we will fight with honor to preserve our dignity," Abu al-Aynain told the Al-Arabiya TV News Channel. "We will resist any attempt to approach our camps."
The Fatah leader was speaking shortly after Israeli missiles fell near the Rashidiyeh refugee camp near the city of Tyre in southern Lebanon. "We can't stay out of the battle if Israel invades south Lebanon," he said. "Once the Israeli enemy comes near our refugee camps, the Palestinians will have the courage to fight against this ugly aggression."
Palestinians in Lebanon have so far stayed away from the current conflict between Israel and Hizbullah and almost none of them have been asked to join the fight against the IDF. Hizbullah consists largely of Lebanese Shiites, while all the Palestinians in Lebanon are Sunnis.
Meanwhile, several Palestinian armed groups on Tuesday heaped praise on Hizbullah for "stubbornly and courageously" resisting the IDF forces in Lebanon. The groups expressed readiness to send Palestinians to join Hizbullah in the battle against Israel.
The move follows pro-Hizbullah demonstrations that have swept the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the past two weeks.
A statement issued by the armed groups in the Gaza Strip said Hizbullah "had succeeded in creating a new balance of terror with Israel - one that will have political, economic, military and moral repercussions on the Israeli enemy."
It also hailed Hamas for continuing its attacks on Israel and for kidnapping IDF soldier Gilad Shalit one month ago. "The perseverance of the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance forces has plunged Israel into a deep crisis," the groups said. "This is the beginning of a new era, where Israeli and American conspiracies in the Middle East are doomed to failure."