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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Palestinian Arabs lead extremist groups in Lebanon

The AP has just published a backgrounder on the new breed of Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist groups that have taken over PalArab "refugee" camps in Lebanon, and it seems that they really are mostly Palestinian - a fact that's been glossed over in the media for months.

(And kudos to AP for covering the story - I criticized AP two months ago for ignoring these facts and it appears that they have corrected themselves.)
The Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh on the edge of the southern city of Sidon is where most of the Palestinian radical groups are based and where plots against Israel and Western influence in Lebanon — and against Lebanese foes — are believed to be hatched. It's the largest of the 12 camps in Lebanon, housing about 45,000 of the 400,000 Palestinians whose exile dates from Israel's creation in 1948.

Bearded men in battle fatigues and carrying Kalashnikovs or pistols freely roam around the densely populated camp or guard the offices of the various groups.

Radical Islamic militias in the camp include Asbat al-Ansar ("Band of Partisans"), Jund al-Sham ("Soldiers of the Levant") and the Islamic Struggle Movement. Washington has accused Asbat al-Ansar of being linked to al-Qaida, and it and the Jund al-Sham are said to have close ties to Fatah Islam in the Nahr el-Bared camp.

Membership in each group probably numbers dozens.

While the relationship between the Sunni fundamentalist groups and al-Qaida is unclear, at the very least they are inspired by the movement's global appeal and share its philosophy of "jihad" against what it regards as American and Western attempts to dominate the Muslim world....

"We converge with al-Qaida and approve its role in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Sheik Walid Sharif, spokesman for Asbat al-Ansar. "Sheik Osama is our sheik, may God protect him."

Sharif says he has sent more than 300 Palestinian and Lebanese recruits to fight in Iraq alongside Ansar al-Sunnah, an Iraqi group with close links to al-Qaida, and that he has been in contact with al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, which is believed affiliated with bin Laden.

About 25 of his men have died in operations in Iraq, including suicide bombings, Sharif said.

Another Palestinian radical leader, Sheik Jamal Khattab of the Islamic Struggle Group, pointed out that not every Muslim fighting American occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan is with al-Qaida. He also sought to distance his group from the loss of innocent lives in Iraq.

"We support anyone who fights America or Israel, but we are against ... killing of innocent civilians," he said.

In Lebanon, intelligence officials blame radical Palestinians in Ein el-Hilweh for at least two recent attacks, a rocket fired into Israel in mid-June that caused damage but no casualties and a car bombing a week later that killed six Spanish members of UNIFIL, the peacekeeping unit monitoring the shaky truce between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas.

Authorities say members of Fatah Islam have confessed to bombing two buses near Beirut in February in which three people died and 20 were wounded, and the government has accused the group of planning other attacks. But the Lebanese army did not move against the group until after its fighters ambushed more than 30 army soldiers.

The group's strength had grown to hundreds of fighters — Palestinians, Lebanese and other Arabs — and the battle with the army was the worst violence Lebanon has suffered since its 1975-90 civil war, killing some 150 soldiers, an unknown number of militants and more than 20 civilians.

In Nahr el-Bared and the other refugee camps, the rise of the radical Islamic groups has further cut the influence of the secular Palestine Liberation Organization, which once controlled the camps but saw its power wane after its fighters were driven out by Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

Goksel, the former UNIFIL officer, fears the real danger is that the radical Islamic movements will keep recruiting fighters in the poor, overcrowded camps and carry out more attacks until they finally get the backing of their would-be patron, al-Qaida, while authorities miss a chance to squelch the jihadists.

The Ap captions in the file pictures meant to accompany the article are more explicit:

Palestinian gunmen of Ansar Allah, Arabic for Partisans of God, stand alert as they prepare to deploy in the refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh in the southern city of Sidon, Lebanon, June 5, 2007 to prevent further Jund al-Sham frictions with the army after clashes. The Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh on the edge of the southern city of Sidon is where most of the Palestinian radical groups are based and where plots against Israel and Western influence in Lebanon — and against Lebanese foes — are believed to be hatched. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

During the major fighting in the Lebanese camps, the West was bending over backwards to imply that the terrorists were anything but Palestinian - usually blaming Syria. The picture is still murky but getting clearer.

Remember also that the reason that Palestinian Arabs are so amenable to being recruited to these terror groups is because their host countries refuse to integrate them into society, and keep them imprisoned for generations.