By AARON KLEIN
Special to the Sun
RAMALLAH -- American-run programs that train Fatah militias were instrumental in the "success" of the Palestinian intifada that began in 2000, a senior Fatah militant told The New York Sun.
"I do not think that the operations of the Palestinian resistance would have been so successful and would have killed more than one thousand Israelis since 2000 and defeated the Israelis in Gaza without these [American] trainings," a senior officer of President Abbas's Force 17 Presidential Guard unit, Abu Yousuf, said.
America has longstanding training programs at a base in the West Bank city of Jericho for members of Force 17, which serves as de facto police units in the West Bank, and for another major Fatah security force, the Preventative Security Services.
This weekend diplomatic security officials announced that the State Department will begin training Force 17 again this year in an effort to bolster Mr. Abbas against Hamas, which took over the Gaza Strip in June when the terror group easily defeated American-backed Fatah forces in the territory.
Many members of Force 17 and the Preventative Security Services also openly serve in Fatah's declared "military wing," Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which took credit along with the Islamic Jihad terror group for every suicide bombing in Israel between 2005 and 2006. The Brigades is responsible for more terrorism from the West Bank than any other Palestinian Arab organization.
Abu Yousuf, the Force 17 officer, received American training in Jericho in 1999 as a member of the Preventative Security Services. He is a chief of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Ramallah, where he is accused of participating in anti- Israel terrorism, including recent shootings, attacks against Israeli forces operating in the city, and a shooting attack in northern Samaria in December 2000 that killed the leader of the ultranationalist Kahane Chai organization, Benyamin Kahane.
After the Kahane murder, Mr. Yousuf was extended refuge by Yasser Arafat to live in the late Palestine Liberation Organization leader's Ramallah compound, widely known as the Muqata. Mr. Yousuf still lives in the compound.
Prime Minister Olmert last month granted Mr. Yousuf amnesty along with 178 other Brigades leaders reportedly in a gesture to Mr. Abbas.
Speaking during an interview for the upcoming book "Schmoozing with Terrorists," Mr. Yousuf said his American trainings were instrumental in attacks on Israelis. "All the methods and techniques that we studied in these trainings, we applied them against the Israelis," he said.
"We sniped at Israeli settlers and soldiers. We broke into settlements and Israeli army bases and posts. We collected information on the movements of soldiers and settlers. We collected information about the best timing to infiltrate our bombers inside Israel. We used weapons and we produced explosives, and of course the trainings we received from the Americans and the Europeans were a great help to the resistance."
Mr. Yousuf said the training included both intelligence and military tactics.
"In the intelligence part, we learned collection of information regarding suspected persons, how to follow suspected guys, how to infiltrate organizations and penetrate cells of groups that we were working on and how to prevent attacks and to steal in places," he said.
"On the military level, we received trainings on the use of weapons, all kind of weapons and explosives. We received sniping trainings, work of special units especially as part as what they call the fight against terror. We learned how to put siege, how to break into places where our enemies closed themselves in, how to oppress protest movements, demonstrations, and other activities of opposition."
Mr. Yousuf seemed to anticipate criticism for speaking publicly about the training. He's not "talking about U.S. training in order to irritate the Americans or the Israelis and not in order to create provocations," he said. "I'm just telling you the truth."
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