Since a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups was agreed to in November, more than 60 rockets have been fired by Palestinians in Gaza, seriously injuring two Jewish teenagers and disrupting life in Israeli cities neighboring the Gaza Strip.
The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, which bills itself as the "military wing" of Fatah, has taken responsibility for about one-third of the recent rocket fire.
Abbas has claimed Brigades leaders firing rockets from Gaza during the truce are "renegade" members of the group, and that he doesn't have authority over the terrorists.
Miri Eisin, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, this week told the Israel Resource News Agency the al-Aqsa Brigades members firing the projectiles from Gaza are not affiliated with Fatah and don't take orders from Abbas. She said the terrorists are directed by the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hizbullah militia.
Olmert last month held talks with Abbas and has said he is willing to conclude a peace agreement with the Palestinian leader.
But Abu Ahmed, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades leader in the northern Gaza Strip, told WND his group, including the terrorists launching rockets, is loyal to Abbas and coordinates "resistance operations" with the Fatah party.
"The al-Aqsa Brigades is the military wing of the Fatah and the President Abu Mazen (Abbas) is the chairman of the movement. We are committed to our leadership, to Abu Mazen. All our activity is in accordance with the political line of Fatah, which consists of fighting the occupation until the creation of a Palestinian state. The rocket shooting is part of this vision," Abu Ahmed said.
All rockets fired from Gaza have been launched from the northern part of the territory, which falls within Abu Ahmed's jurisdiction in the Brigades.
Asked why Abbas distances himself from al-Aqsa's rocket firing, Abu Ahmed told WND, "Listen, we are aware of our president's (Abbas') declarations but we are also aware of the international political system that brings the president to adopt this position."
The terror leader said Abbas never asked his group to halt the rocket fire.
"We know what is Fatah's general political line and we act according to this line and I can say that we were never asked to stop shooting rockets. Therefore, the rocket shooting is not in any way harming our loyalty and our commitment to (Abbas) and his leadership."
Abu Ahmed refused to address information released by Israeli security officials his group is financed by Hizbullah, but sources in the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades admitted they receive some funds and training from the Lebanese militia.
The Brigades sources also said they regularly coordinate their attacks with Mahmoud Dahlan, Fatah's strongman in Gaza.
"We are still totally committed to Fatah and (Abbas) regardless of help from other groups. The help is sanctioned by Fatah," a Brigades source said.
'Shooting takes place when there are Israeli crimes'
Some Israeli and Palestinian security officials told WND Fatah militants are launching rockets at Israel for internal political reasons.
Calm in Gaza favors the opposition Hamas government, said once Israeli security source.
"It gives Hamas a chance to govern during quiet times and not during Israeli operations in Gaza, during which the Palestinian take some frustration out on the Hamas government. Fatah wants violence and Israeli retaliation to generate opposition to Hamas," the source said.
But Abu Ahmed denied the accusations.
"This is totally wrong," said Abu Ahmed. "Our shooting is taking place when there are Israeli crimes, especially in the West Bank. Our shooting at the end of the day is directed against the Israeli enemy and aims first of all to clarify that we will react when our people and militants are hurt."
Both Israel and the US State Department consider the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades to be a terror organization. US policy calls Fatah "moderate" and dictates the Brigades is a separate entity, but still affiliated with Fatah.
The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, together with Islamic Jihad, has taken responsibility for every suicide bombing in Israel the past two years, including an attack in Tel Aviv in April that killed American teenager Daniel Wultz and nine Israelis. The Brigades also has carried out scores of deadly shooting and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians in recent months.
All Brigades leaders are also members of Fatah. Many openly serve in Fatah's security organizations, including Force 17, which functions as police forces in Gaza and the West Bank. The US reportedly has provided training, funds and weapons to Force 17.
Abbas last June appointed senior al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades leader Mahmoud Damra as commander of Force 17. Damra, who was arrested by Israel in November, was on the Jewish state's most-wanted list of terrorists.
In a recent WND interview, Abu Yousuf, a Force 17 member in the northern West Bank, confirmed many members of his security organization are also enlisted in the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
"During our official service and during our job hours we are soldiers. What we do in our free time it is our business. Of course, as members of Fatah, some of us are members in the Brigades and we take part in the defense and protection of our people and in the fight against the Israeli occupation," said Abu Yousuf, himself a Brigades leader.
Reprinted by permission of WorldNetDaily