Fatah Armed Wing Praises Hamas' Stand on Keeping Arms

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the mainstream Fatah movement, yesterday praised a statement by the militant Hamas organization that it intends to hold on to its weapons after Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip.

No side had the right to disarm any Palestinian armed wing, the brigades said in a statement sent to reporters.

"We support our brothers in Hamas and affirm that no Palestinian armed wing will be dissolved because Palestine is not Gaza only, but rather, Palestine is Palestine from the River (Jordan River) to the Sea (Mediterranean Sea) and it is our land and we have the right to defend it," the statement said.

"Our legitimate weapon will remain in our hands pointed at one enemy named Israel and not at the Palestinian Authority, since it is part of the Palestinian people and we all belong to one people," the statement went on.

It termed "ridiculous persons" those who called for Palestinian armed factions to lay down their weapons.

Hamas leader Isma'eel Haneya said in a Gaza news conference Saturday that "armed resistance" would not stop after Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip, and his movement would not give up its weapons.

Al-Aqsa urged all Palestinian factions to close ranks and keep weapons pointed at the Israeli occupation forces and settlers, and said the pullout was made possible by the "blood and sacrifices" of its fighters.