New York – The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has renewed its criticism of the Israeli decision last month to transfer weapons to Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mamhoud Abbas presidential guard, Force 17, after a senior Force 17 member, Abu Yousuf, did not deny that such weapons had been used in two recent terrorist attacks which resulted in the death of one Israeli. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided in May to transfer weapons and ammunition, including 370 assault rifles, to Abbas Force 17. Sources close to the Al-Aqsa Brigades says that these weapons were used in two separate shooting attacks on Israelis in recent days. One attack killed a 35-year-old Israeli Arab traveling on a highway on the outskirts of Jerusalem last Sunday while the second attack, which occurred on Monday, wounded another Israeli.
Two weeks ago, Abbas appointed Mahmoud Damra to head Force 17. Damra, who is on Israels most wanted list of terrorists, was among those offered shelter in 2002 in Arafats presidential compound, the Muqata, in Ramallah after Israel accused him of masterminding a string of terrorist attacks. Israeli security officials say that since September 2000, Damra has led a terror cell based in Ramallah that has carried out deadly attacks, including shootings at Israeli vehicles, attacks against Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and the planting of roadside bombs.
Abu Yousuf is a terrorist who in addition to membership in Force 17, also belongs to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, also part of Abbas Fatah, which has carried out hundreds of deadly terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, against Israeli men, women and children. Yousuf was involved as recently as last month in a shoot-out with Israeli forces in Ramallah. He also participated in the shooting attack in northern Samaria in December 2000 that killed Benyamin Kahane, leader of the Kahane Chai organization. After the Kahane murder, Yousuf also sought and obtained refuge in Yasser Arafats Ramallah compound, from which he still operates.
Yousuf said in an interview regarding the weapons Force 17 recently received from Israel that, These weapons will not be used in an internal war but against Israelis … Force 17 is proud that we were the first to lead the Palestinian people during tough times … We will also be the first to lead the Palestinians in the current struggle against Israeli occupation … [Israel transferred these weapons] for its own political purposes. We are not concerned with the reasons. The weapons will not be used against our brothers, only [against] Israelis. He also said in response to a question about the use of the new weapons that members of the Al-Aqsa Brigades live with him in the Muqata and that resistance tools are shared regularly (World Net Daily, June 15).
ZOA National Chairman of the Board, Dr. Michael Goldblatt said, The ZOA warned last month about the dangers of this arms transfer to known terrorists in Mahmoud Abbas entourage and already an Israeli has paid with his life for this mistake. One of the first things we asked at the time of this decision to transfer arms to Abbas Fatah, which has killed nearly as many Israelis as Hamas in over five years of terrorist attacks, was, what is to prevent these same Fatah gunmen from turning their guns on Israeli civilians as well, as they have done and continue to do? (May 26). Now we know the answer — nothing.
This tragic miscalculation by the Olmert government is even more incomprehensible since, only days after the original decision to transfer the weapons to Force 17, Mahmoud Abbas appointed Mahmoud Damra, someone on Israels list of most wanted terrorists, to head Force 17. When the news of his appointment was made, Israel should have immediately cancelled its decision but regrettably did not. We urgently appeal to the Israeli government to not to repeat this tragic mistake and instead to wage a consistent and sustained counter-terrorist campaign. We further urge it to abstain from all negotiations with and concessions to the PA until and unless it fulfills all Palestinian obligations under signed agreements and the 2003 Roadmap peace plan to cease all terrorism, arrest and extradite terrorists, confiscate illegal weaponry and close the bomb factories as well as ending the incitement to hatred and murder in the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps that feed terrorism.