Hamas ambushed a convoy in the Gaza Strip on Sunday and seized a stockpile of US weapons transferred in recent months to militias associated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, according to Hamas and Fatah sources.
"We obtained the US weapons and will keep hijacking any assistance the Americans provide to Fatah. Our fighters are aware of the American and Israeli conspiracies to topple our government. We're trained and well prepared to defeat the American-backed (Palestinian) agents," said a top member of Hamas' military wing in the Gaza Strip.
According to Israeli and Palestinian security officials and Hamas sources, Hamas militias have taken almost complete control of the northern Gaza Strip in recent months, including areas from which rockets are regularly launched from the territory into nearby Jewish communities.
The officials said Fatah is restricted to acting in a half-mile radius in the vicinity of a major Fatah military compound. Hamas has set up roadblocks and checkpoints throughout northern Gaza to ensure Fatah militias remain near their compound.
After a Fatah gunman shot a Hamas member on Sunday, a Fatah convoy of three trucks was stopped by Hamas at a makeshift checkpoint at Dabit Circle, a northern Gaza town, according to Hamas sources. Hamas abducted 18 Fatah gunmen and seized stockpiles of American weapons that were in the vans, the sources said.
The US has transferred large quantities of weapons to Fatah in recent months to back Abbas' military organizations against Hamas. Fatah and Hamas engaged in months of factional clashes until the two forged a unity government in February. But renewed fighting in Gaza in recent days has threatened to torpedo the unity deal.
The last confirmed US weapons transfer to the Palestinians took place last May and consisted of 3,000 assault rifles, but WND reported multiple others transfers were since delivered to Fatah, including a cache of 7,000 rifles last January and about 8,000 assault rifles in February.
While the weapons were meant to bolster Fatah in Gaza, Hamas has reportedly won most battles against the US-backed militias. WND reported last month that a Fatah militia in Beit Lehiya, a major city in the northern Gaza Strip, surrendered to Hamas forces after reaching an agreement in which the Fatah militants stated they will evacuate the city and altogether depart the Gaza Strip.
This weekend, according to Palestinian security sources, Baha Abu Jarad, a Fatah strongman in Gaza, surrendered a large swath of territory to Hamas, nearly completing Hamas' grasp on the northern Gaza Strip.
The US Congress last month approved $59 million in aid to Fatah's militias after an earlier Bush administration pledge of $86.4 million was blocked for fear the money might reach terrorist groups. The aid package contains a new qualification stipulating the money must not be used to purchase weapons.
The vast majority of the US aid is slated to bolster Abbas' Force 17 security forces, which serve as de facto police units in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. But many members of Force 17 are openly members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror organization and Israel has arrested wanted terrorists from these units.
WND last month quoted Israeli and Palestinian security officials stating intelligence and security organizations associated with Fatah, including Force 17, are infiltrated by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations.
A top Palestinian intelligence official told WND: "We are leading a large number of investigations and some of the results prove that such an infiltration by Hamas (of Fatah's security and intelligence forces) exists.
"I can say that in some cases we diagnosed a deep infiltration to high posts in some Fatah security services," the high-ranking Palestinian intelligence officer told WND. "In some cases we believe there are officers that are exposed to very sensitive information."
He said that since the US announced it is providing Abbas' forces with additional funds, Fatah intelligence officials at the direction of American security coordinators here have been attempting to expel Hamas infiltrators. He said the past month "dozens" of members of Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and Islamic Jihad were found operating in the Fatah forces.
Reprinted with permission of WorldNetDaily