Israel Resource Review 23rd August, 2005


President Abbas:
Withdrawal of Occupation Credited to Martyrs, Prisoners and Wounded
IPC + WAFA) [Official PA website]

GAZA, Palestine, August 23, 2005
President Mahmoud Abbas asserted that the credit of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza Strip and northern West Bank goes to the Palestinians who were killed, wounded and imprisoned during the decades of struggle for independence.

Abbas, who was addressing a gathering of physically-challenged individuals rallied by the National Committee for the Disabled Affairs, said that the injuries and disabilities they carried were medals of honor that are paid today by with the exit of the last Israeli settler from Gaza Strip.

"The credit [for the withdrawal] goes to the martyrs, prisoners, and first and last to you present here in front of us. Thank God that you lived to see with your own eyes the fruits of your struggle and sacrifices for the nation and your children's future," President Abbas told the gathering.

The President also added that on Tuesday the evacuation of Israeli settlers would begin in parts of the northern West Bank, referring to it as the beginning of the withdrawal from the rest of the Palestinian lands. "We know that you're a group representing your category in society, and through you we say that it is you who paid the price and today we see this price embodied on the land of Palestine."

Concerning the disability law, President Abbas declared that five percent of all government positions would be set aside for the physically-challenged individuals, and that he would work to achieve this ratio as a minimum limit of jobs.

"This is an established law and we must enforce it, even on those who refuse it," the President stressed.

In another development, President Abbas received a phone call yesterday evening from the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Nabil Abu Rudeina, the presidency's spokesman, told reporters that the President and Prime Minister Sharon discussed the latest developments of the Israeli withdrawal and evacuation of illegal Israeli settlements.

Abu Rudeina added that the President has stressed the necessity of continuing the peace process, and the Palestinian National Authority's commitment to it in order to reach a just and comprehensive peace leading to security and stability for everyone.

In the meantime, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Tuesday morning that during the same phone call, the President and the Israeli premiere agreed on meeting soon.

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PA won't disarm Hamas, Islamic Jihad
Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post

Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced on Monday that they have reached an agreement with the Palestinian Authority according to which the two groups would not be disarmed.

The agreement was reportedly achieved during talks in Damascus between PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Qurei met Sunday night in Damascus with leaders of various radical groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and discussed ways of cooperating with them after implementation of the disengagement plan is completed.

Sources close to the two groups said Qurei made it clear that the PA would not confiscate the weapons of any of the armed groups in the Gaza Strip.

Musa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas leader based in Syria, said the meeting was held in a "cordial atmosphere" and that the two sides agreed that the Palestinians should have a joint strategy after disengagement.

"We stressed during the meeting that the Palestinians have the right to continue the resistance [against Israel] and that there would be no attempt to collect weapons from the resistance groups," he said.

"The weapons of the resistance were founded to defend the Palestinian people and resist the occupation," he added. "The Gaza victory was achieved with the weapons of the resistance, which is the only strategy to drive Israel out of the rest of our lands."

Qurei met earlier with Syrian President Bashar Assad and discussed with him the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.

He briefed Assad on Israel's settlement expansion in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and the ongoing preparations of the PA for the aftermath of disengagement, the Syrian news agency Sana reported.

"Gaza is a part of Palestine, and there will be no calm until the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," Qurei told reporters after the meeting.

He lauded Syrian-Palestinian relations, saying they were based on "full cooperation and consultation."

Meanwhile, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told a European envoy Monday that the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip was not enough and that Israel should withdraw to the pre-1967 borders.

Abbas, who met in his office in Gaza City with European Union Middle East envoy Mark Otteh, called for international pressure on Israel after disengagement to revive the peace process and implement the road map plan.

Abbas also met with US, Russian and United Nations officials and urged them to put pressure on Israel to withdraw from the entire West Bank and east Jerusalem and to stop construction of the security fence.

Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Abbas, said the Quartet - the US, Russia, the EU and the UN - was working toward ensuring a smooth Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.

He said the Quartet was also seeking ways of helping the Palestinians rebuild the Gaza Strip and that its representatives would meet in New York next month to discuss providing financial aid to the PA.

Otteh said after the meeting with Abbas that Europe would help the Palestinians improve their living conditions and boost their economy to create jobs for the unemployed. He said the EU had already provided the PA with $500 million for various projects in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.

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Zarqawi Setting up Bases in Jordan, Gaza Strip?
Aaron Klein, Correspondent,

Terror chief boasts of Eilat, Aqaba attack amid concerns of network expansion.

JERUSALEM - A website affiliated with al-Qaida yesterday announced the terror groups' Iraq insurgency leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was responsible for last week's rocket attack that nearly hit a U.S. naval ship in the Gulf of Aqaba and an airport in Israel's Eilat port town, driving home fears here the terror chieftain has established a base in Jordan intent on carrying out attacks against both the Heshamite kingdom and the Jewish state.

Some are pointing to ideological connections between Zarqawi's group and Hamas, and warning al-Qaida may try to gain a foothold in the Gaza Strip after Israel's departure from the area.

On a website affiliated with al-Qaida's Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Zarqawi this morning claimed his "Al-Qaida of the Two Rivers" carried out the "raid on Aqaba and missile firing on Eilat." The statement also said terrorists involved in the attack returned safely to their "base" in Iraq, challenging Jordan's arrests yesterday of militants it suspects were behind the rocket launchings.

Jordanian officials announced they detained Mohammed Hassan Abdullah al-Sihly, a Syrian national with ties to the Abdullah Azzam Brigades accused of plotting the attack and firing the missiles with two of his sons and an Iraqi militant. The officials said the alleged plotters were part of an Iraq-based terrorist group led by Iraqi Mohammed Hamid Hussein, know to be involved with the Abdullah Azzam Brigades.

Al-Sihly, who lives in Amman, had been surveying sites for the attack in Aqaba since August 6, the Jordanians said.

On Friday, Katyusha rockets were fired toward two U.S. warships docked in Aqaba and an Israeli airport in Eilat. One missile struck a Jordanian military hospital. A Jordanian soldier was killed in the attacks.

Zarqawi was immediately suspected of involvement. Audiotapes purportedly from Zarqawi recently vowed to punish Jordan's rulers for "aiding the treacherous enemy America." The Iraqi terrorist was suspected last year of plotting a chemical attack against U.S. officials in Jordan, and has long talked of striking the "Zionist enemy" and U.S. interests near the Jewish state.

The strike in Eilat set off an internal debate here about whether the missile was an intentional hit against Israel, or strayed from targeting America's naval ships in Aqaba.

Officially, a spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces would only say the attack is "still being investigated." But military officials told WND the Katyusha strike near Israel's coastal airport is being taken as an al-Qaida-linked attack directed against Israel.

"We believe Eilat was the target," a military official said. "This leads to questions about a new cell established in Jordan to open a new front and attack U.S. and Israeli interests right here. Jordan is a major supply route for American efforts in Iraq."

The official said Jordanian forces were combing the country for a new al-Qaida network with suspected bases on their soil.

Jordan denies providing logistical backing to President Bush's military campaign in Iraq, though the U.S. Army has said in briefings it has used the country as a main supply route.

The Aqaba and Eilat attacks were immediately claimed by al-Qaida's Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an umbrella group that is said to include Zarqawi's network, and which claimed responsibility for attacks in Sharm el Sheikh in July and Taba last year, which together killed more than 100 people.

Dr. Reuven Erlich, director of the Terrorism and Intelligence Information Center at Israel's Center for Special Studies, told WND ideological links between the Azzam Brigades and Hamas is of major concern, particularly as the Palestinian terror group gains a foothold in the Gaza Strip in the wake of Israel's pullout from the area.

"The connections between Hamas and Abdullah Azzam are deep and need to be addressed," said Erlich. "We found Azzam's picture on Hamas posters from Gaza and a lot of Hamas' material. He is one of the most important figures in both al-Qaida and Hamas Palestinian terrorism."

Azzam, from the north Samarian village of Silat al-Harithiya, was an early member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He met Osama bin Laden in the early '80s and, according to many reports, became his main spiritual mentor. He wrote a book, "The Defense of Muslim Lands, the Most Important Personal Duty," stressing that land previously under Islamic control must be returned by way of jihad. The book, widely touted by Hamas, is among al-Qaida's stated guidelines for its global jihad.

During Operation Defensive Shield in March 2002, Israel captured a large amount of Hamas material containing the images and doctrine of Azzam.

According to an analysis of the Hamas material by the Center for Special Studies: "Azzam's portrait in materials reveal that he is perceived by Hamas as one of the four 'outstanding figures' of the Islamic 'struggle' in Palestine and around the world. . . . Dr. Azzam is a prominent source of inspiration for global jihad. By glorifying him and turning him into a role model, Hamas exceeds its Palestinian-national aspect and positions itself ideologically in the global jihad camp, although in fact at this time its terrorist-operational activities are focused only on Israel and the PA-administered territories."

With Israel yesterday completing its evacuation of Jewish homes in Gaza, there has been concern al-Qaida, including groups linked to Zarqawi, is looking to establish a cell in the area.

A group calling itself Jundallah or "Allah's Brigade" claimed in May it set up shop in Gaza. The new terror group is said to consist mainly of former Hamas and Islamic Jihad members who believe Palestinian terror groups have become too moderate. Jundallah says it has close ties to al-Qaida in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.

Also, several al-Qaida-connected militants have been arrested by Israel's Shin Bet Security Services for attempting to set up cells in Gaza.

Yaacov Amidror, former chief of research for Israeli military intelligence, told WND, "It's becoming clear Hamas will take over Gaza when Israel leaves. Today, one of the weaknesses of al-Qaida is its lack of a safe haven in the Middle East. The new realities in Gaza will make it one of the most convenient places for al-Qaida to base their global operations. The Gaza Strip will become a paradise because it will be area in which the population and the terror groups in power, especially Hamas, share the same ideology as al-Qaida."

Amidror said al-Qaida is not seen by Hamas as a threat to its dominance in Gaza.

"Al-Qaida isn't seeking control of Gaza. Hamas emphasizes the war against Israel before the struggle against the rest of the West, the Christians and the non-Islamist world. Al-Qaida would use its Gaza base to fight against infidels around the world."

Aaron Klein is WorldNetDaily's Jerusalem bureau chief, whose past interview subjects have included Yasser Arafat, Ehud Barak, Shlomo Ben Ami and leaders of the Taliban.

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