June 3, 2007 Special Dispatch No. 1599

Fath Al-Islam Military Commander: We Are "Ready To Blow Up Every Place In Lebanon"

June 3, 2007
Palestinians, Lebanon | Special Dispatch No. 1599

In an interview with the London daily Al-Hayat, the military commander of the Fath Al-Islam organization, Shihab Al-Qaddour, also known as Abu Hurieira, threatened that if attacks by the Lebanese military against his organization continued, "all fronts will be opened" and that Fath Al-Islam would be "ready to blow up every place in Lebanon." He also noted that his organization's activists were prepared for a battle lasting two years or more.

Al-Qaddour, 36, from the village of Mishmish in the sub-district of Akkar in northern Lebanon, is considered the No. 2 man in Fath Al-Islam, after the leader Shaker Al-'Absi. According to Al-Qaddour, who spent five and a half years in a Syrian prison, he has fought for 21 years in various areas, including Iraq.

The following are excerpts from the interview:

"We Have Sleeper Cells On Alert In All Palestinian Refuge Camps"

During the interview, Al-Qaddour told Al-Hayat that the Fath Al-Islam organization "would respond against the Lebanese military if the attacks on it were to continue," and added that "[our response] will not be limited [solely] to the Palestinian refugee camps or to Beirut, but all fronts will be opened." Referring to the battles in Tripoli and the bombings in the neighborhoods of Beirut during the past week, he said: "This is only the beginning... We are ready to blow up Beirut and every other place in Lebanon."

Al-Qaddour stated that "in addition to the supporters of the organization, Fath Al-Islam has bases and sleeper cells in all the Palestinian refugee camps in the various regions of Lebanon, and they are on alert [to launch] a harsh response – they await only a sign from us." He said, "Fath Al-Islam's threat to open the fire of hell against Lebanon is a serious one. As long as we are under attack, we will [defend ourselves] by any and all means. The organization has the full capability to bring the battle to every place in Lebanon. We can easily do this..."

Fath Al-Islam – A Palestinian Organization, Not Al-Qaeda Affiliated

Al-Qaddour, who spent five and a half years in a Syrian prison, also said in the interview that some accuse the Fath Al-Islam activists of being "Syrian agents inside Lebanon." However, he said, his organization comprises Palestinian activists from various countries, with rich battle experience: "The Fath Al-Islam organization is Palestinian, and includes 600 to 700 activists in all the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, not only in the Nahr Al-Bared refuge camp. All the activists are on the highest battle alert." He added, "The number of Fath Al-Islam [members who were] killed in the first three days of the battles with the Lebanese military was only 10, and all the killed were Palestinians from Lebanon, Syria, or Jordan. This is in spite of that we expected to have many more killed."[1]

Al-Qaddour said: "Many Fath Al-Islam members have very rich battle experience outside Lebanon. I personally have 21 years of experience in fighting in various regions – the most recent of which was Iraq. "

Al-Qaddour noted that he was not worried about a possible scenario in which the residents of the Nahr Al-Bared refugee camp rebelled against Fath Al-Islam. He said, "Many of the members of the Palestinian factions that oppose us politically deviated from their leaders' orders, stood with us, and identified with us when the camp was recently bombed."

Al-Qaddour denied that Fath Al-Islam was affiliated with Al-Qaeda, and added: "Our organization is an Islamic project aimed at liberating Palestine and Jerusalem. Our fire [will strike] at every obstacle that stands against our achieving our goal." He continued, "If the right to defend our land [Palestine] is stripped from us, the responsibility will be borne by all those who stand in our way and who carry out the American and Jewish plan and the Western [plan] in general."

"We Are Prepared for a Battle That Will Last Two Years Or More"

Al-Qaddour stated that in his organization there were "people who are prepared for martyrdom and to carry out [such] operations," and refused to call them suicide bombers. He added, "If the noose tightens around our neck, we will not exclude any means [of response]." Al-Qaddour likewise noted that Fath Al-Islam has shelters and underground fortifications in the Nahr Al-Bared camp, and added: "We have nothing to lose. We are prepared for a battle that will last two years or more."

On the warfare methods of Fath Al-Islam, Al-Qaddour said: "We adopt guerilla warfare, which no army can vanquish as demonstrated in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan."

Fath Al-Islam is Not Against the Shi'ites and Has Connections With Hizbullah

Al-Qaddour added, "We have no intention of attacking UNIFIL in the south [of Lebanon] as long as those forces do not attack us." He further noted that his organization had "connections with Hizbullah and also that it bore no enmity towards Hizbullah, or towards the Shi'ites in Lebanon," and that therefore they had no "intention to carry out operations against the Shi'ites in Lebanon."[2]

Fath Al-Islam Leader: We Have Hundreds of People Ready for Martyrdom

Two months before the outbreak of hostilities between the Lebanese army and Fath Al-Islam, Fath Al-Islam leader Shaker Al-'Absi threatened, in an interview with the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar, to set the region on fire: "We are now monitoring the movements of the military around the [Nahr Al-Bared] refugee camp. If we sense [that there is about] to be a real attack against us, our reaction will be very harsh, and it will not stop. We have hundreds of people who are willing to martyr themselves [istishhad], who have prepared themselves to strike at the entity state [i.e. Israel], and they are ready to defend [the banner of Islam] 'There is no God but Allah' everywhere in the world." Al-'Absi further added that the organization had activists not only in the refuge camps but throughout Lebanon, Palestine, and the surrounding region.

Al-'Absi, who has spent time in Syrian prison, denied Syrian claims that he had been jailed on charges of belonging to Al-Qaeda. He said that he had been arrested for attempting to carry out an operation in the Golan, and that he was accused of possessing weapons and transferring weapons to Palestine.[3]

[1] In an Al-Jazeera TV interview on May 25, 2007, PLO spokesman As'ad Abd Al-Rahman defied reports that Fath Al-Islam is a Palestinian organization, asserting that there are no Palestinians nor are the casualties in the battles with the Lebanese Army Palestinian, and hinted that the organization is operated by the Syrian regime.

[2] Al-Hayat (London), May 25, 2007

[3]Al-Nahar (Lebanon), March 16, 2007.

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