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Hamas probes Israeli arms transfer of 3,000 rifles and 3 million bullets to Fatah terrorists - Abbas denies receiving US weapons delivered to his office

July 17, 2006

Hamas: Probe arms transfer to Abbas

Abbas accused Israel of lying and insisted that no weapons had been sent to his security forces.
Photo: AP
Khaled Abu Toameh, THE JERUSALEM POST Jun. 18, 2006

Hamas on Saturday called on the Palestinian Legislative Council to launch an investigation into the transfer of rifles and ammunition to forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, charging that the move was intended to trigger civil war among the Palestinians.

About 1,000 M-16 rifles and large amounts of ammunition were transferred last week from Jordan to Abbas's security forces, a move that Israel authorized to help Abbas and his Fatah party in their confrontation with Hamas.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced the decision last week in London, causing senior PA officials in Ramallah to express outrage with Israel for going public on the issue.

"The Israeli government should not have published this," protested one official. "This is an extremely sensitive issue and the Palestinians street will now think that Israel is arming us so that we could fight Hamas. This makes us look like collaborators."

Another official told The Jerusalem Post that there was "nothing unusual" with the transfer of weapons to the PA.

"Under the terms of the Oslo Accords and other agreements signed with Israel, the Palestinian Authority is entitled to bring light weapons for the security forces," he said. "This is not the first time that rifles and ammunition have been transferred from Jordan or Egypt."

Although the transfer of the weapons was completed on Wednesday night, Abbas and his top aides have publicly denied knowing anything about the deal. On a visit to Nablus Thursday, Abbas accused Israel of lying and insisted that no weapons had been sent to his security forces.

But Hamas officials said on Saturday that Abbas's loyalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip had received three trucks loaded with rifles and ammunition. They said the shipment, which included 3,000 M-16 rifles and three million bullets, was delivered to Abbas's office in Ramallah and Gaza City.

"We call on the Palestinian Legislative Council to launch an immediate investigation into this matter," said a statement issued by the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip. "We want to know the nature and type of the weapons, why they are needed, and the party that paid for the rifles and bullets."

The statement, which is seen as an indication of growing tensions between Fatah and Hamas, noted that the decision to supply Abbas's loyalists with weapons came at a time when the Palestinians were suffering "under the yoke of financial siege and starvation."

Hinting that Israel and the US were behind the move, Hamas urged the PLC to look into the "size of American and Israeli intervention in the internal affairs of the Palestinians. We strongly condemn the exposed American-Zionist conspiracy to spark dissension among our people by arming and financing one side under the pretext of arming the presidential guard."

Hamas also accused unnamed Arab countries of being part of the alleged conspiracy, calling on the Palestinians to work toward thwarting any attempt to trigger civil war.

The latest charges came despite reports that Hamas and Fatah were close to reaching an agreement on ending their dispute.

PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said on Saturday that he expected an agreement with Abbas as early as this week.

"The dialogue has achieved significant results," he said. "I expect an agreement within the next few days."

Haniyeh did not elaborate, but sources close to Hamas said they had good reason to believe that Abbas would cancel his decision to hold a referendum over a controversial document drafted by some Palestinian prisoners. In return, Hamas would agree to the establishment of a national unity government that would bring together several factions, including Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

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