Amnesty for 32 al-Aksa Members

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CBNNews.com - Israel granted amnesty to 32 members of al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction.

The al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades is responsible for the lion's share of terror attacks on Israelis in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), Jerusalem and other Israeli cities.

"The names of the gunmen have been completely removed from Israel's list of wanted Palestinians," said one PA government official. "From now on, the gunmen will be allowed to move around freely and without fear of being targeted by Israel," he said.

The arrangement stems from a U.S.-brokered agreement between Israel and the PA, which provides amnesty following a three-month terror-free probation period.

Muhammad Shehadeh, the brigade's commander in Tulkarm, who stayed inside a PA security facility for the required three months, has been granted "final" amnesty.

Among the 220 wanted Palestinians who will participate in the second trail period is al-Aksa's Jenin commander Zakariya Zubeidi, who reportedly continues carrying a handgun for self-defense.

PA officials were disappointed with the numbers.

"Israel is aware that all of the wanted al-Aksa members have stopped engaging in any activity that could even come close to threatening the Jewish state, but the Israelis chose to exclude a number of wanted men they want to use as bargaining chips in future negotiations with us," said one PA official.

Israeli members of Knesset disagreed.

The decision to pardon "Fatah terrorists" shows that the Israeli government "prefers to bolster Fatah rather than defend the residents of Sderot," Likud MK Yuli Edelstein said.

"On the one hand, Cabinet ministers make fiery statements on the need to combat terror relentlessly, but on the other hand they compromise and boost those who carry it out," he said.

"Thus [the government] is encouraging terror and inviting more attacks [on Israelis]," he said.

MK Zvi Hendel (National Union/National Religious Party) said the government's disclaimer that the amnesty is reversible is meaningless.

"What does 'reversible' mean? That after they go back to killing -- and history shows that they will -- we will imprison them again? This is insane," Hendel said.

Yisrael Beitenu MK David Rotem said the amnesty program reflected the government's continuing "misguided policy of concessions."

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) imposed a full closure on the PA-controlled city of Jenin Sunday amid warnings of a planned suicide bomb attack emanating from there. It was the first full closure on Jenin in many months.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, YNet news service

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