In a military training camp run by the ruling Fatah movement, hundreds of young Palestinians marched in formation Monday and sprinted across a sandy lot.
Competition among armed Palestinian groups over control of Gaza's lawless towns intensified Monday as Israeli settlers cleared out the last of 21 Jewish settlements.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas wants to see carefully orchestrated victory marches under the Palestinian national flag. However, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and a few tiny Palestinian Liberation Organization factions have ignored his appeals, already parading their gunmen in a show of force and planning parades once the last Israeli soldiers leave in the coming weeks.
In southern Gaza, near what was once the Gush Katif bloc of Israeli settlements, members of Fatah's military wing, the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, have organized three military training camps for more than 3,000 activists. (Tiny indeed! - EoZ)
The Palestinian Authority distanced itself from the training camps.
"There is no Fatah army, no popular army," said Tawfik Abu Khoussa, a Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman. "We want to get rid of the military images. After the withdrawal, there is one authority and that's it."
However, the Al Aqsa men said they were getting Fatah funding for the camps, and Palestinian security officials sat in on one of Monday's interviews with camp organizers.
In organizing a small private army, Fatah gunmen in southern Gaza also appeared to be sending a warning to the Palestinian Authority that they could make trouble if jobs are not found for them in the security forces. Many gunmen believe they are entitled to government posts, saying they made personal sacrifices in fighting Israel.
We have mentioned many times before the absurdity of believing that Abbas is a "moderate" when he directly funds the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigades terror group. The connection is well known and for some reason the world community doesn't seem to have a problem continuing to give huge amounts of money to the PA knowing that some of it goes directly to a terror organization.
The AP decided that this information didn't have to appear until paragraph 24.