Fatah uses Jordan as insurgency base

Special to World
Sunday, January 18, 2004

TEL AVIV Jordan has become an insurgency base for Fatah operatives loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Israeli security sources said that after a lull of several years Fatah agents have resumed the use of Jordan as a base for operations planning, recruitment and the transfer of money from Iran to Arafat loyalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The sources said the Fatah operation, which began about two years ago, has been raised by Israel in discussions with the Hashemite kingdom.

"Iran and Hizbullah have been using Jordan as a base for operations, particularly for the West Bank," a security source said. "The Jordanians are trying to hard to stop it, but it's been a very difficult task."

The Fatah insurgency network in Jordan has been led by Fuad Balbisi, security sources said. Balbisi works in the PLO's Political Department in Amman, headed by Farouk Khaddoumy, and has been financing Fatah insurgency cells with money from Iran and Hizbullah. Balbisi was directing the recruitment and operations of Fatah squads in the West Bank in attacks against Israeli targets.

"From his home in Jordan, Balbisi has been directing Fatah squads in the territories and links them with Iranian and Hizbullah entities," another security source said.

Israeli security authorities obtained information on the Fatah network in Jordan in wake of the arrest of three Palestinians from the West Bank city of Nablus. The Palestinians, members of the same family, were accused of transferring money from Iran and Hizbullah via Jordan to operatives in the West Bank.

One of the brothers detained, Fadi Abdu, identified as a leading Fatah operative, was said to have told Israeli interrogators that he received more than $230,000 from Balbisi to recruit and operate Fatah squads. The sources said the Iranian funds were disguised as donations for social welfare projects in the Palestinian Authority areas. Abdu was an educator in the Nablus area and headed a branch of Fatah's Shabibi youth movement.

The Iranian funds were transferred to insurgents by the Abdu brothers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. One attack said to have been financed by the Fatah office based in Amman was the insurgency strike on the Israeli city of Kfar Saba in April 2003.

Security sources said the operation on the Kfar Saba railroad station cost Iran about $22,000 and was directed by Fatah insurgent Anir Sawalme, who headed a cell in the Balata refugee camp outside of Nablus. One person was killed and 15 were injured in the insurgency strike. Sawalme, who was also said to have been financed by Iran, was captured by Israeli forces in June 2003.

The Fatah insurgency command in Jordan also financed another Fatah operative, identified as Husni Zalum, the sources said. Zalum was said to have told Israeli interrogators that he received funding from Hizbullah in Lebanon via the Fatah office in Jordan operated by Balbisi. The funding was said to have been used for the recruitment of insurgents and the purchase of weapons.

Iran has long sought to infiltrate the PLO leadership in an attempt to direct the Palestinian insurgency, the security sources said. The sources said Iran has tried to woo Khaddoumy himself to form an alternative to the PA in an effort thwarted by Israel.

One source of Iranian funding through Jordan was Al Hussein Saleh, described as a leading member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Abdu said he received $30,000 from Saleh from October 2002 until Saleh was killed in August 2003. The money was delivered by young women from Jordan to the West Bank.

In October, Abdu's brother, Shadi, was sent to Jordan to meet Hizbullah operatives from Lebanon. The Hizbullah agents were meant to provide Shadi with unspecified equipment for the insurgency cells in the West Bank. Israel arrested Shadi on Oct. 7.

Jordan has placed on trial several insurgents said to have been financed by Hizbullah to purchase and transfer weapons to Fatah insurgents in the West Bank. Amman has often called on Iran and Hizbullah to end their insurgency activities in the kingdom.

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