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Former fighter Zubeidi excluded, then returned to Fatah conference

Aug. 5, 2009 9:31 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 5, 2009 9:39 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Former Al-Aqsa Brigades leader Zakariya Zubeidi was turned away from Fatah’s general conference in Bethlehem on Tuesday after travelling to the city from his home in the northern West Bank.

Arriving at the Terra Sancta school hall in Bethlehem, the prominant former leader of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Brigades found that his name was not on the list of delegates.

Sources in the Al-Aqsa Brigades verrified that Zubeidi was an accredited delegate to the convention, one of more than 2,000 from within Palestine and the Diaspora attending the meeting.

Sources also say that after refusing to include him in the proceedings in Bethlehem, officials later accepted Zubeidi as a delegate. Attempts to contact Zubeidi himself were unsuccessful.

Though Zubeidi is no longer a Fatah fighter, ceports that the charismatic former guerilla leader had been turned away provoked angry reactions from the brigades.

Jihad Ja’ara, another prominent former Al-Aqsa Brigades fighter deported to Ireland after the siege of the Nativity Church in 2002, called on the Palestinian Authority to secure the return of Zubeidi to his home in Jenin refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, fearing that he could have exposed himself to attack by travelling to Bethlehem.

“If Fatah does not want Zubeidi, then why did they invite him to the congress in Bethlehem? This is humiliation for the Al-Aqsa Brigades, and they won’t let it go unquestioned,” he said, speaking on the phone from Ireland.

Zubeidi, who led Palestinian fighters in Jenin Refugee Camp, signed an “amnesty” deal with Israel in which he gave up armed struggle in exchange for a guarantee that Israel will not arrest or assassinate him. He is one of the most prominent faces of Fatah's armed wing.

Ja’ara claimed that Nativity Church deportees who were members of the Fatah congress announced their withdrawal in solidarity with Zubeidi and his family.

In the same regard, Al-Aqsa Brigades members from Jenin and Nablus described the exclusion of Zubeidi as “stabbing resistance in the back.” They confirmed that Zubeidi planned to nominate himself for the Fatah Revolutionary Council, the movement’s second highest decision-making body.

In an interview on the eve of the conference, Zubeidi said he hoped Fatah would adopt a program that includes "resistance" a term that encompasses armed action.

“This resistance is not defined yet. It could be armed resistance and it could be peaceful resistance,” said Zubeidi.
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