American officials have asked the U.S. Congress to restore funding that was to beef up weapons, ammunition and other materiel for Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s Force 17 personal militia last year.
The reason: Fatah lost a massive amount of military supplies when its Gaza forces were vanquished by Hamas last week in the PA civil war.
A PA official warned during the Hamas takeover that the terrorist faction had succeeded in grabbing “thousands of rifles, large amounts of ammunition and dozens of vehicles,” including armored jeeps and armored personnel carriers supplied by the U.S., Egypt and Israel. “This is really bad news for all,” he said.
According to the State Department, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch submitted the request at the end of recent Congressional hearings to restore $27 million in aid to the Fatah militia in order to help Force 17 re-arm.
The original aid package, more than $50 million, was approved six months ago to help train the Fatah forces under the direct supervision of U.S. military envoy Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton.
The package was trimmed by half however, after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned she could not guarantee that Hamas would not end up with the equipment supplied by the U.S.
Thousands of weapons and other materiel were shipped to the PA militia from American allies Egypt and Jordan, with Israel’s full knowledge and approval. Of those, however, many were confiscated by Hamas as it won smaller skirmishes with Fatah over the year.
Lt.-Gen. Dayton’s performance is now being questioned in the wake of his protégés’ stunning defeat at the hands of Hamas terrorists in Gaza, who honed their military skills under the tutelage of Iranian-backed Hizbullah terrorists in Syria, Lebanon and possibly Iran.
Hamas' Al Aqsa Television broadcast footage on Thursday and Friday of Hamas gunmen brandishing American assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, rocket launchers and ammunition the U.S. reportedly provided to Fatah over the past few months. Hamas fighters also showed what they said were 10 American-provided armored personnel carriers the terror group said it seized from U.S.-backed Fatah security compounds it took over Tuesday.
Most of the American aid and weapons were transferred to Fatah's Force 17 fighters unit, which serves as Abbas' Presidential Guard and de facto police officers in Gaza and Judea and Samaria.
Many members of Force 17 are openly members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group, Fatah's declared "military wing" which took responsibility for many suicide bombings in Israel the past two years. The Jewish state regularly arrests Force 17 members accused of carrying out shooting attacks against Israelis.
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