TEL AVIV (Jul. 17)
The Palestine Liberation Organization’s main fighting arm, Al Fatah, is losing ground to terrorist extremist groups among residents of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, Ha’aretz reported Sunday.
Israeli officials are concerned by this trend, which reflects growing frustration and radicalization among the refugees, the newspaper said.
The Palestinians in Lebanon have shifted their support in recent months from Fatah, which is controlled by Yasir Arafat and has practiced restraint for the last half year, to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Both are extremist groups led respectively by Nayef Hawatmeh and George Habash, who still operate under the PLO umbrella but consider Arafat too moderate.
Membership has increased in the even more extreme Tala’at Yacub organization, at Fatah’s expense.
Israelis fear second and third-generation refugee camp residents are turning away from Fatah because they believe it is prepared to forgo the right of return of Palestinians to their former homes in what is now Israel.
While Arafat has not explicitly commented on the right of return, he has called for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, thereby appearing to abandon aspirations to win back all of what is now Israel.
Since Arafat announced in Algiers last December that he recognizes Israel’s right to exist and renounces terrorism, Fatah has refrained from sending infiltration squads from southern Lebanon to penetrate Israel’s borders.
The more extreme groups have stepped up such activities in recent months.
But Fatah squads responsible for attacks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as one inside Israel proper, have been apprehended recently.