Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has appointed a convicted terrorist, previously jailed in Israel and released as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap in October, as the newest adviser in his office in Ramallah, Israel Radio reported Monday.
Gen. Mahmoud Damara was one of the leaders of Fatah's Force 17 special operations terror unit, which was later absorbed into the PA's national security apparatus and is known to have been involved in terror.
Damara was charged with initiating shooting attacks and bombings against Israelis through Force 17. He himself even fired RPG missiles at Israel Defense Forces tanks during the second Intifada.
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Arafat had entrusted his personal safety to Force 17 for years, but the Israelis say its activities extended far beyond protecting the Palestinian leader.
Under Damara’s guidance, members of the Ramallah unit have carried out 25 shooting attacks in Jerusalem, Ramallah and other parts of the West Bank, killing eight Israelis and wounding more than 20 in recent months, the Israeli army said in a document released Thursday.
In the deadliest confrontation, an Israeli woman and two soldiers were killed in shoot-out in the West Bank, the military said. The unit, which had allegedly operated with other militants, was also accused of setting off roadside bombs and firing mortars at Jewish settlements.
Damara ”supplied the members of the organization with armaments and defined the policies for terrorist attacks,” the Israeli military has claimed.
The IDF arrested Damara in 2006 in a surprise operation, and in 2010 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. While still in prison, Abbas promoted him to the rank of general. In October, he was released in the first phase of the Shalit deal, which saw 1,027 Palestinian prisoners released from jail in exchange for the Israeli soldier, who had been held in Hamas captivity for more than five years.
The general, who once barricaded himself - together with late PLO leader Yasser Arafat - within the Muqata [Arafat's compound in Ramallah] during an IDF raid, was most recently employed in Abbas's office as an assistant to the adviser on district affairs.
On Monday, Abbas issued a presidential decree on Damara's appointment to the position.
Abbas's appointment of Damara flies in the face of his current political actions. On Tuesday, Palestinian and Israeli representatives will meet for the first time in more than a year in an attempt to restart peace talks between the two sides.
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