On March 12, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot confirmed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have issued operational orders, as their tenures draw to a close, for the Israeli army to return weapons to Palestinian terrorists belonging to the Fatah-affiliated al-Aqsa Brigades terror organization.

The Israeli army had confiscated weapons from the Fatah-affiliated terror organization during Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002.

A month earlier, the United States government defined the group as an official Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). That categorization has never changed, even though United States military currently advises Fatah, which also runs the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Members were contacted to discover their responses to the information the Israeli government intends to return weapons to the terrorists.

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One Knesset member of that security committee, Professor Aryeh Eldad, of the Israel National Union Party, responded to the query with a demand for the immediate convening of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to discuss the matter. Mr. Eldad’s demand will be discussed today.

However, it may already be too late.

Last night, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency confirmed that the Israeli army returned 300 confiscated weapons to the Palestinian Authority yesterday morning, according to the head of the PA’s Department of Civil Affairs.

The official, Husein ash-Sheikh, told Ma’an that, during a visit to the former Beit Eba military checkpoint yesterday, Israel had returned 300 pieces of weaponry to the PA’s security services.

Thousands of PA weapons were confiscated by Israel during an operation in 2002, he said.

Meanwhile, he noted that the PA is working to “totally remove the Huwwara checkpoint,” which is located south of Nablus.

“Removing Beit Eba checkpoint, west of Nablus, was a good move but insufficient as around 50 checkpoints surround the entrances of various districts,” Mr. ash-Sheikh said.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.