Three Fatah operatives involved in a plot to assassinate Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during a trip to Jericho to meet with Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas on August 6 and subsequently arrested by the PA after receiving information from Israels Shin Bet (Security Agency), have been found to have been released by the PA. Two of the three were seen back at a Jericho security checkpoint in the ranks of Fatah, the party ruling the PA headed and co-founded with Yasser Arafat by Mahmoud Abbas. The head of Israels Shin Bet (Internal Security Service), Yuval Diskin, informed the cabinet of the August 6 assassination attempt this week.
A total of five Fatah operatives suspected of plotting to assassinate Olmert were members of the PA security forces and were assigned to guard the prime ministers convoy. Israel arrested the two other men involved but transferred them to PA custody. All five confessed to their involvement in the plot. Following the discovery of the two released men near Jericho, Israel informed top PA negotiator Ahmed Qurei of the discovery, who assured Israel that all the suspects were still in custody. However, on Friday, upon further examination, it became clear that they had indeed been released by PA officials. PA prime minister Salaam Fayyad said that the five Fatah operatives were rearrested last week and are currently being held in custody, that the original release had been an error and that the mistake would not reoccur.
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter also said that Olmerts life had not been in real danger since the operatives planned to use light ammunition which would not have been able to pierce the prime ministers car but that This was no reason to release the suspects, while Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that the peace process must be frozen until all details about the plot are clarified. National Union –National Religious Party chairman Zevulun Orlev called for Israel to re-arrest all the Fatah operatives released by the PA security forces. He added that Olmert should cut off all contact with Abbas, who, Orlev said, protects terrorists, and boycott the Annapolis conference, a call echoed by MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud). However, Olmert, while describing the PAs conduct as a source of discomfort, insisted that Israel would participate in the US-sponsored Middle East parley (Jerusalem Post, October 21).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, It is hard to imagine clearer evidence of the PAs unfitness for negotiations as a peace partner. Not only has the PA not fulfilled any of its 14 year old commitments to jail terrorists and end the incitement to hatred and murder in the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps that feed terror, but its own Fatah personnel plot to assassinate the Israeli prime minister. Worse, it releases the men and puts them back on active duty. This is clearly not a government that has the slightest interest in fighting terror and in honoring agreements. We can see that nothing has changed since the days when Arafat, as PA president, operated a revolving door in which some terrorists occasionally were arrested, only to be quietly released a short time later or else were put up in top hotels during the day and allowed home at night.
We also know — and the ZOA has publicized this before — that Abbas himself has been sheltering wanted, known terrorists inside his presidential compound in Ramallah, just as Yasser Arafat did before him. It is clear that Abbas is simply Yasser Arafat in a suit, that Fatah and the PA remains the terror-sponsoring and protecting organizations they have always been and that no genuine peace agreement can be concluded with such Palestinian Arab leadership. The PAs goal remains Israels destruction by use of terrorism, as clearly laid out to this day in Fatahs Constitution .
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