The armed wing of the ruling Fatah party, Aksa Martyrs Brigades, on Sunday became the first Palestinian group to publicly endorse Iran's call to eliminate Israel
In a leaflet distributed in the Gaza Strip
, the group voiced full support for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's
statements in which he said that Israel
"must be wiped off the map."
Ahmadinejad also warned Arab countries against developing economic ties with Israel in response to its withdrawal form the Gaza Strip, which he dubbed as a "trick."
"Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury," he was quoted as saying. "Any [Islamic leader] who recognizes the Zionist regime means he is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the Islamic world."
The leaflet by the Fatah group is the first of its kind since the Iranian president's speech. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad
, which are believed to be receiving financial aid from Iran, have refrained from reacting to the call to wipe Israel off the map.
"We affirm our support and backing for the positions of the Iranian president toward the Zionist state
which, by God's will, will cease to exist," said the leaflet. "Recognizing Israel's right to exist means underestimating the Palestinian people, who are making daily sacrifices to liberate Palestine and Jerusalem."
The Fatah group also hailed Ahamdinejad's appeal to the Palestinians to unite their ranks so they would be able to destroy Israel.
officials in Ramallah
told the Jerusalem Post
that the leaflet does not reflect the stance of the PA or its chairman, Mahmoud Abbas
. "We strongly condemn the leaflet," said one official. "We believe it does not even reflect the position of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades."
The PA is now in the process of incorporating hundreds of gunmen from the Aksa Martyrs Brigades into the PA security forces. Last month the PA cabinet decided to set up five training camps in the West Bank to prepare the gunmen for their new missions. The PA's plan is supported by both the US and Israel.
In a related development, Professor Abdel Sattar Kassem of An-Najah Univeristy in Nablus lashed out at the US, Britain, France and Israel for expressing their revulsion at the Iranian leader's remarks.
"These aggressive countries, which specialize in political fraud and the exploitation of other people, did not express reservations when Palestine was wiped off the map in 1948," he said.
of Palestinian refugees have been living for the past 60 years under harsh conditions so that Israel could continue to exist. And these countries, which have been emphasizing their keenness about human rights, insist on preventing these refugees from returning to their homes and property. Israel remains an alien organ in the Arab and Muslim region."
In another development, a Palestinian preacher on Friday delivered a sermon in the southern Gaza Strip in which he saluted Osama bin Laden
and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
According to a report by the Palestine News Network, the sermon was delivered by Dr. Jamil Mutawi, a senior representative of Hamas.
"May God bless Sheikh Osama bin Laden and Sheikh Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who are both leading the jihad against the Zionist entity and against American domination of the world," he reportedly told worshippers on the second day of the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr
PA Interior Ministry spokesman Tawfik Abu Khoussa denied reports that al-Qaida had begun operating in the Gaza Strip following the Israeli disengagement. "These are false claims and lies made by Israeli security officials with the aim of distorting the image of the Palestinians and their struggle," he said.