Israel declared an amnesty for scores of Palestinian gunmen linked to Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction.
Jerusalem officials said Sunday that 178 members of Al-Aksa Brigades in the West Bank would be granted immunity from Israeli military sweeps in exchange for their agreement to stop engaging in terrorism.
The roster includes Zakaria Zbeidi, a charismatic, Hebrew-fluent leader of Al-Aksa Brigades in Jenin who said he and his men now want to enroll in Fatah’s security services.
In another move intended to boost Abbas’s standing among Palestinians and off-set the popularity of rival Hamas Islamists, Israel said it would allow Fatah’s hardline leader abroad, Farouk Kaddoumi, to attend an upcoming PLO meeting in the West Bank. Similar approval was granted to Naif Hawatmeh, the Syria-based chief of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).
It was not immediately clear if Kaddoumi or Hawatmeh would take advantage of the entry permits. News that Hawatmeh might be visiting Israeli-controlled territory stirred outrage among victims of DFLP terrorist attacks such as the bloody hostage-taking incident in Maalot in 1974.