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Monday, August 16, 2010     GET REAL

Israeli report ties Hamas-backed militia group to Turkey's Erdogan

TEL AVIV — Defectors from the ruling Fatah movement have established a militia with the help of a Turkish Islamist group linked to Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.


A report by the state-sponsored Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center asserted that Fatah defectors in the Gaza Strip, called Al Ahrar, have established a militia. The militia was founded on the third anniversary of Al Ahrar in July 2010 and led by former Palestinian Authority spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal, Middle East Newsline reported.

"It was supported by Hamas from its inception," the report, authored by intelligence analysts, said. "In our assessment, this was part of the process of taking over Fatah as well as internal Palestinian power struggles."

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Released on Aug. 11, the report said Al Ahrar has received support from Turkey's Foundation for Human Rights and Humanitarian Relief, known as IHH, the government-aligned Islamic movement that sponsored the flotilla to the Gaza Strip in May 2010. Nine people, eight of them Turks, were killed in a bloody Israel Navy interception of the lead ship of the flotilla.

"Israel were set on fire during the announcement ceremonies, while a representative of the Turkish organization IHH congratulated the participants by a video call," the report said.

Al Ahrar, which does not recognize the rule of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, has vowed to attack Israel from both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The report said the Fatah defectors have been provided with publicity and probably military support by Hamas, which has been fostering proxies to attack Israel.

"It is also our belief that its military activity is supported and directed by Hamas," the report said.

On July 7, Al Ahrar announced its new military wing, called Al Ansar Battalions. In a ceremony, several dozen fighters brandished AK-47 assault rifles and torched Israeli and U.S. flags. Later, the militia participated in a parade organized by Hamas police and attended by leading Hamas officials. They included Interior Minister Fathi Hamad and Hamas Legislative Council deputy speaker Ahmed Bahar.

Al Ahrar said the militia would begin operating over the next year. The militia was said to have agreed to join Hamas and other forces that have been attacking Israel.

"The actions of the Al Ahrar movement since its establishment prove that it is a true continuation of the movements of resistance in its adherence to rights, fundamental principles, and defense of the resistance," Bahar, the Hamas deputy legislature speaker, said.

The Israeli intelligence center said Hamas would deploy Al Ahrar to attack Israel. The report said Hamas has already recruited other militias in this effort.

"It is our assessment that, once its policy of terrorist attacks allows it, Hamas may employ military operatives belonging to the Al Ahrar network as subcontractors for terrorist attacks, as it formerly did with operatives of other similar terrorist networks," the report said.

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