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In a statement several days before the recent murder of a sleeping family in the West Bank town of Itamar, Jeara told me that Israel “will not stop killing our kids, our people” and that “their lives, their kids, they are not more important than our people.”
The brigades initially claimed responsibility for the attack, a declaration that they almost immediately retracted.
Jeara declined to disclose the size of the faction that he claims to represent but did say that he is still connected to Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.
Nevertheless, Abu Yazzan, a former spokesman for the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claims that Jeara no longer represents the organization.
“Abu Udai doesn’t represent the brigades,” Abu Yazzan said. “His statements don’t represent the brigades, and currently they don’t make any statements.”
Jeara responded with disbelief that Abu Yazzan would deny his connection to the West Bank terrorist organization. The exile expressed anger and outrage during a follow-up interview, claiming that he had spoken to Abu Yazzan and that the former spokesman had denied speaking to the media or saying that Jeara was not a leader of the brigades.
There has been debate as to Jeara’s precise role and whether or not he can still be considered a player. However, what is known is that by making threats against Israelis, Jeara is most likely in violation of the terms by which he is required to abide in exchange of sanctuary in Ireland.
Despite the unwillingness of the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bureau to disclose the exact terms of the agreement that sent Jeara into exile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor did tell me that if Jeara has indeed been “sending out threats of violence, this is a very serious breach of the terms of his stay in Ireland and Irish law enforcement authorities should deal with this problem at once.”
The Irish government, however, has been reluctant to offer comment.
A representative of the Irish Justice Department told me that “it is not the practice to comment on security matters.”
The Justice Department did disclose, however, that “the activities of individuals who may be of interest to law enforcement authorities are monitored. Furthermore, where evidence exists of any breaches of Irish law, including any offences under the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005, these will be fully investigated by An Garda Síochána (the national police force).”
One veteran Palestinian journalist, who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity, mused that while Jeara is “really involved in something…he sometimes publishes stuff to keep being relevant.”
“Officially, the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades announced that they are dismantled two-and-a-half years ago and even the attacks that were carried out were carried out by individuals and not by the organization as an organization with cells,” he said.
“The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is a jungle,” he told me. “Saying that Jihad Jeara is involved is true, but it is not true on the other hand, and there is nothing that he was involved in [during] the last three years.”
This would seem to indicate that while he may not have been directly connected to terrorism in the past three years, he may have been involved in terrorist acts since his arrival in Ireland nearly a decade ago.
“Now he is involved in trying to organize the movement in the political process that has been taking place in the movement [sic],” the journalist said, “but on the ground there is nothing that is being carried out by the organization so he can say yes he did it or he was part of it.”
Not everybody agrees that the brigades are defunct, however.
The government of New Zealand declared that the brigades are active when it designated them as a terror organization in December.
According to a statement provided by the New Zealand embassy in Ankara, “the group continues to use violence as a means to achieve its political and ideological objectives, and has carried out recent and specific attacks that meet the definition of a terrorist act under New Zealand’s TSA.”
What is clear is that while Jeara may or may not be a serious player, he has in the past directly involved himself in the murder of Israeli and American citizens and that by making threats against Israelis once again, he is most likely violating the terms of his sanctuary in Europe. Israel must seize this opportunity to pressure the government of Ireland to put a known terrorist behind bars.
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