Friday, January 8, 2010

PA detains Al-Aqsa operatives in Nablus

Nablus – Ma'an – Palestinian Authority security forces placed nine Fatah operatives into protective custody in the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Friday, detaining them in the nearby Al-Juneid prison, Ma'an has learned.

The men were once "wanted" members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah's paramilitary wing, until they entered into an amnesty program and received pardons from Israel.

An informed security source said the arrests came amid indications from the Israeli military that it would take its "own procedures," which were not specified, in the event PA forces failed to detain all nine before midnight. PA officials interpreted the warning as a threat to reinvade Nablus, the site of an incursion last month that left three Al-Aqsa members dead, two of whom had received pardons beforehand.

Ma'an obtained the identities of the men, who all turned themselves in before the alleged deadline.

1. Mahdi Abu Ghazaleh
2. Omar Akuba
3. Saleh Abu Al-Hayyat
4. Zaki Anees Issa
5. Muntaser Anees Issa
6. Haytham Al-Masry
7. Muhammad Labada
8. Reda Tubela
9. Anwar Al-Mahrum

At least two of them, Mahdi Abu Ghazaleh and Omar Akuba, were partially pardoned as recently as two months ago along with 30 others, and it was not clear why Israel was insisting they be rearrested.

Approached by Ma'an, representatives of the Israeli military were not immediately able to comment.

A number of Al-Aqsa fighters voluntarily entered an amnesty program in which they signed an agreement swearing off armed struggle against Israel. Under the terms of the deal, each handed in their weapons in exchange for a guarantee from Israel that they would no longer be pursued for arrest or assassination. The assassinations last month, however, threw into question the program's legitimacy.

Last Sunday, another operative affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Brigades handed himself over to Israeli authorities. Imad Tayih, 22, from the Al-Far'a Refugee Camp near Tubas, had been "wanted" by Israel for over a year and a half. During his time as a fugitive, he survived targeted assassination attempts and was injured as a result on several occasions, according to his family.

He turned himself in at the Salim military base in Nablus late last Sunday, according to his cousin Faris, who observed that Tayih had been receiving a high volume of telephone calls from Israeli intelligence threatening to kill him if he did not give himself up.

Since the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada in September 2000, Israeli forces have assassinated more than 200 Palestinians with the use of air strikes, ambushes or undercover forces. As many as 400 bystanders were also killed in these attacks.

Faris explained that whenever his cousin would receive such a call, it was swiftly followed by attempts to ambush or abduct Tayih, adding that he had survived two assassination attempts and was injured nine times, recently including a critical gunshot wound to the spine. Unable to receive medical assistance and no longer able to bear the pain, Tayih handed himself in.

An Israeli military spokesman refused to comment on that arrest at the time.

Three weeks ago, Israeli forces assassinated three Palestinians affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Brigades in Nablus. The attack provoked an angry response from President Mahmoud Abbas, who threatened to scale back security coordination with the Israelis. The arrangements were already strained in late November when Israeli forces operating in Nablus and Salfit detained the commander and four officers of the PA Intelligence Services.