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Sharon Warned Bush about Iraq

By The Forward

Yossi Alpher, former senior adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Barak, writes an exclusive opinion piece for the Forward revealing that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told President Bush before the American invasion of Iraq that he opposed the idea. While Sharon acknowledged that Saddam Hussein was an "acute threat" to the Mideast, Alpher writes, the Israeli leader advised against occupying Iraq, and against attempting to "implant democracy" in the Mideast. Sharon also warned against going into Iraq without an exit strategy, and noted that plans to counter a sectarian insurgency would need to be in place.

Rice Promises PA Rifles Won't Be Aimed at Israel

By David Gollust (VOA-Jerusalem)

Officials traveling with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the Middle East said a proposed $86-million U.S. aid package for security forces controlled by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas includes no lethal military hardware or ammunition.

Earlier after Mahmoud Abbas told Arabs to "raise your rifles" against Israel, Rice said the U.S. would prevent a repeat of previous attacks on Israel with arms supplied to PA forces.

The United States has been supplying the Palestinian Authority chairman's personal militia with weapons to give him a military edge over the rival Hamas militia. Terrorists have vowed that the weapons would be used against Israel, as they were in the 1990s when the Israeli government, headed by then-Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, gave the PA security forces thousands of rifles.

Rice, on a whirlwind visit to the region, held talks with Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah Sunday, and will meet the leaders of Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia Monday.

Rice herself has expressed concern about the prospect that Palestinian moderates might some day be out-gunned by the forces of the militant Islamic Hamas movement. But the Secretary and top aides insisted the security aid package confirmed late last week would not exacerbate the intra-Palestinian conflict and includes no weapons or ammunition.

Hamas has bitterly complained about the plan and some members of Congress are apprehensive about what would be a major shift in U.S. aid policy toward the Palestinians.

But appearing alongside Abbas at a news conference in Ramallah, Rice said the aid would have human rights and other restrictions, and be phased in over time as part of a broader international effort to professionalize the Palestinian security services:

"Let me be very clear," said Rice. "It's not as if tomorrow there will be a U.S. contribution should the Congress approve it. Rather, this is train-and-equip program that will unfold over a period of time. I'm sure that President Abbas and his people will want to be attentive to the requirements of the plan, including attentive to concerns about human rights which are there in all of our train and equip programs around the world."

She has said she is carrying no new U.S. plan or proposal to restore peace momentum. But at their news conference, Abbas made clear he opposes an idea raised by some Israeli officials for setting up an interim Palestinian state in areas his administration now controls.

"We have also noted to Minister Rice our refusal to any temporary or transitional solutions, including a state with temporary borders because we do not believe it to be a realistic choice that can be built upon," said Mahmoud Abbas. "We have also emphasized the importance of active and continuous mobilization by the various regional and international parties to put an end to the conflict."

Rice held a late-Sunday dinner meeting near Amman with Jordan's King Abdullah, who dispatched a Jordanian military helicopter to pick up the Secretary from a landing pad on the grounds of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

Abbas: "Raise Rifles Against the Israeli Occupation"

By WorldNetDaily

"Raise [your] rifles against the Israeli occupation," Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared last week in Ramallah. In a speech commemorating the 42nd anniversary of the founding of his Fatah party, the PA chief called on Arab factions to put an end to weeks of infighting and instead fight Israel.

"Shooting at your brother is forbidden. Raising rifles against the occupation is our legitimate right, but raising guns against each other is forbidden. We should put our internal fighting aside and raise our rifles only against the Israeli occupation," said Abbas in a speech in the Muqata compound in Ramallah attended by World Net Daily.

Abbas' call to arms was not reported by most major media outlets featuring articles on the PA leader's speech. His statements about using rifles against Israel come after the United States, aided by Ehud Olmert, over the last few weeks provided 7,000 assault rifles and more than 1 million rounds of ammunition to militias associated with Abbas' Fatah party, according to senior Fatah militants.

In Thursday's speech, Abbas went on to praise late Hamas spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated by Israel in March 2004. He also used Quranic verses to claim Jews are corrupting the world.

"The sons of Israel are mentioned as those who are corrupting humanity on earth," Abbas said during a portion of his speech in which he criticized recent Israeli anti-terror raids in northern Samaria.

Abbas' anti-Semitic remarks and his call to arms against the Jewish state were not quoted in hundreds of English-language articles reporting on Thursday's speech or by most major Israeli dailies, which featured pieces on their websites about the Fatah commemoration ceremonies.

A widely-circulated Associated Press article, titled "Abbas calls for respect at Fatah rally," states Abbas called for rival factions to respect each other. The AP quoted Abbas stating, "Shooting at your brother is forbidden," but the article stops short of quoting the rest of his sentence in which he recommends PA Arabs use their weapons against Israel.

The AP article was featured on such top websites as the and Articles by other news agencies and local Israeli papers also failed to quote Abbas' anti-Israel and anti-Semitic remarks.

WND reported that the recent U.S. shipments of rifles and ammunition were provided to bolster Fatah against rival Hamas factions, the Fatah militants said. Fatah and Hamas have engaged in weeks of deadly firefights since Abbas last month called for new elections in a move widely seen as an attempt to dismantle the Hamas-led PA.

Abu Yousuf, a Fatah militant from Abbas' Force 17 security forces, told WND while some of the weapons may be used in confrontations against Hamas, the bulk of the American arms would be utilized to "hit the Zionists." He said if there is a major conflict with Israel, U.S. weapons provided to Fatah may be shared with other "Palestinian resistance organizations."

According to documents revealed Friday, the Bush administration will provide $86.4 million to strengthen security forces loyal to Abbas, including Force 17, which also serves as de facto police units in the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria. Some members of Force 17 also are openly members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror organization, Fatah's declared "military wing."

U.S. officials confirmed the financial aid is set to be transferred to Fatah. The multi-million-dollar grant will be used to "assist the Palestinian Authority presidency in fulfilling PA commitments under the Road Map (peace plan) to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and establish law and order in the West Bank and Gaza," a U.S. government document said.

Force 17 members told WND the ammunition and 7,000 assault rifles they say were delivered the past few weeks reached Fatah security forces in the Gaza Strip and in Ramallah, north of Jerusalem. It was unclear if the arms were part of the $86 million in U.S. aid.

Like other recent confirmed arms transfers from Egypt and the U.S., the latest American weapons shipments were driven through Israeli checkpoints by convoys protected by the Israeli Defense Forces, according to sources familiar with the transfers. In Gaza, the weapons were accepted by Fatah strongman Mahmoud Dahlan, the sources said.

A spokeswoman for the IDF refused to deny the latest purported U.S. weapons shipments. "This is a matter for the state (of Israel) and the prime minister's office," the IDF spokeswoman said.

Miri Eisin, a spokeswoman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, could not immediately provide confirmation or denial of the American weapons shipment, saying Olmert's visit to China is "keeping the staff fully busy."

In an interview with WND, Fatah Force 17 security officer Abu Yousuf said some of the U.S. weapons his group received would be used against Hamas.

"The first place of these U.S. weapons will be to defend the Palestinian national project, which is reflected by the foundation of the Palestinian Authority. If Hamas or any other group under the influence of Iran and Syria wants to make a coup de tat against our institution, these weapons are there to defend the PA," said Abu Yousuf.

"We don't want to go to civil war with Hamas, because this is what both the U.S. and Israel want. This is our last option. We hope our brothers in Hamas won't oblige us to find ourselves in confrontation," Abu Yousuf said.

But the Fatah militant said the new American weapons may also be used to target Israelis. "If Israel will deliver what it promised to Abu Mazen (Abbas), [meaning a] withdrawal from Palestinian lands, including east Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, remove all the checkpoints in the West Bank, release our prisoners, and find a clear solution for our refugees, we'll control our forces and the distribution of weapons.

"But if Israel doesn't deliver, and we find ourselves manipulated by Israel, we cannot guarantee members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Force 17 will not use these weapons against Israel. Our goal is to change the occupation," said Abu Yousuf. "It's unnatural to think these American weapons won't be used against the Israelis." Like some other Force 17 members, Abu Yousuf is openly also a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

The Brigades, together with Islamic Jihad, has taken responsibility for every suicide bombing in Israel over the past two years, including an attack in Tel Aviv in April that killed American teenager Daniel Wultz and nine Israelis. The Brigades also has carried out scores of deadly shooting and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians in recent months.

All Brigades leaders are also members of Fatah. Abbas last June appointed senior Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leader Mahmoud Damra as commander of Force 17. Damra, who was arrested by Israel in November, was on the Jewish state's most-wanted list of terrorists.

Abu Yousuf said the American weapons shipments may be shared with other terror groups. He said that during large confrontations with Israel, such as the Jewish state's 2002 anti-terror raid in Jenin, Fatah distributed weapons to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. "We don't look where this piece or that piece of weapon came from when fighting the Israelis."

He also pointed to what he said was Hamas' infiltration of some of Fatah's security forces as a possible mechanism Hamas can use to obtain Fatah's American-supplied weapons.

"Our organizations are infiltrated (by Hamas). In the last elections campaign, our Fatah party was astonished at how many of our security members voted for Hamas – we thought our own forces would vote 95 percent vote for us, but it was 70 percent for Fatah and 30 percent for Hamas," Abu Yousuf said.

A senior Fatah security official, speaking Friday to WND on condition his name be withheld, said Fatah has a "significant problem" of its militia members in Gaza joining Hamas. Sources close to Hamas said the Fatah militants, including members of Force 17, worked with Hamas after receiving larger paychecks from the terror group. "When they join Hamas, they bring along their new weapons," said a Hamas source.

During a WND interview earlier in the week, Hamas spokesman Abu Oubaida told WND his terror group would obtain any American weapons transferred to Fatah militias or purchased by Fatah using the incoming $86.4 million in U.S. aid.

"I am sure that like in the past, this $86 million from America will find its way to the Hamas resistance via the honorable persons in the Fatah security organizations, including in Force 17. I can confirm 100 percent that this money and purchased weapons will find its way to Hamas," said Abu Oubaida.

The last confirmed American arms shipment to Fatah took place in May. At first, it was denied by the U.S. and Israel, but Olmert in June admitted the transfer took place, telling reporters, "I needed to approve the shipment to help bolster Abbas." The U.S. weapons were delivered to Gaza and Ramallah by the IDF, according to reports.

Meanwhile, Abu Abdullah, considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas' so-called military wing, told WND the U.S. aid and weapons shipments have prompted an arms race amongst the various Arab terror groups.

The Hamas leader said weapons procured as a result of the U.S. shipment would be used against Israel. "The more the Americans give Abu Mazen (Abbas) weapons, the more we will have in the future weapons to use against the Israelis, because it incites the different organizations to intensify their own supply of weapons," said Abu Abdullah of Hamas' Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, Hamas' declared "resistance" department.

According to PA security sources, the increased drive by Hamas to obtain new weapons has raised the price of arms in Egypt and Jordan. "An M-16 that sold for 6,000 Jordanian dinar now is worth 10,000 dinar, because Hamas is trying to get more weapons," the source told WND.

Like Hamas spokesman Abu Oubaida, Hamas' Abu Abdullah said U.S. weapons to Fatah would eventually fall into the hands of Hamas: "These American weapons will be one day the property of all the Palestinian people and its resistance, including Hamas," Abu Abdullah said. "The U.S. gives weapons to Fatah during internal Palestinian clashes, but one day when we go back to carrying out operations together; these [weapons] will be shared."

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