Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade has ended its cease-fire with Israel

Geo-Strategy Intelligence File

August 3, 2003

The al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade has ended its cease-fire with Israel. The decision came after Palestine National Authority (PNA) security personnel arrested 20 brigade members who had been under the protection of PNA Chairman Yasser Arafat in Ramalah. A statement from the group said, "We have ordered the resumption everywhere of our attacks and, in particular, suicide operations." The group charged that Palestinians who were collaborators with Israel carried out the arrests. The group's decision was announced Saturday, Aug. 2.

It is unclear whether the decision applies to all of al Aqsa Martyrs or only some elements, but it is an extremely important development if implemented. So far, there have been no attacks. However, it would take at least several days to organize new attacks and it is, therefore, not significant that there have been no attacks. From the standpoint of the al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, the critical issue is the degree to which the PNA will comply with its agreements to dismantle the brigade's operational infrastructure. The attempt to take control of the 20 members, even if they were not to be handed over to the Israelis, meant that they had crossed a definitive line. From the Israeli point of view, the unwillingness of the PNA to hand them over to Israel meant that it had failed to comply. The PNA, therefore, is caught between a rock and hard place.

The problem is embedded in the cease-fire, which has been interpreted differently by each side. >From the Israelis side, the next step in the roadmap is the dismantling of the various paramilitary groups that had carried out attacks on Israel. From the Palestinian point of view, a cease-fire is not intended to give Israel a victory it could not achieve through military action. At the heart of all of this is the fact that the cease-fire is built on an enormously ambiguous foundation and that each side, genuinely or not, claims different understandings. The real issue is whether this is posturing by al Aqsa or a decision. This could well be political maneuvering by Arafat and others for position among the Palestinians. In any event, the cease-fire is in serious trouble for the moment.