Da Shaker Youssef al-Abssi dukket opp i palestinske flyktningeleire med flere hundre mann for å bekjempe Israel, ble han mottatt med åpne armer. Men langsomt surnet forholdet.
Palestinerne oppdaget at mennene sto for en annen ideologi og religion. Nykommerne var strengt religiøse og betraktet andre muslimer som vantro som kunne drepes. Dette var heavy stuff for mange.
De klaget til Syria og fikk til svar at de skulle legge vekk sine betenkeligheter. Al-Abbsi tilbød Hizbollah hjelp i sommerens krig mot Israel, men fikk avslag i likhet med palestinske grupper. Det satte likevel vondt blod.
Recent interviews with Fatah Uprising and other officials shed new light on the rapid emergence of a radical Islamic force now locked in a bloody standoff with the Lebanese army. They also reveal the complex interaction of Palestinian and other groups in Lebanon — all opposed to Israel but with differing ideologies — that are creating huge challenges for the government here.
When al-Absi first appeared in Lebanon, Palestinians there were anticipating an Israeli attack on their camps after the capture of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants in Gaza and other violence there, said Abu Mohammed and other Palestinians.
So al-Absi’s offer of fighting Israel in case of attack was received with open arms by Fatah Uprising and its deputy leader, Abu Khaled al-Amleh, who was based in Damascus. Fatah Uprising itself broke from the mainstream Palestinian Fatah movement in the early 1980s.
Al-Absi, who is wanted in Jordan for involvement in a 2004 assassination of a U.S. diplomat there, spread out increasing numbers of recruits to several Palestinian camps — about 120 in Beirut’s Bourj el-Barajneh, 60 in Beddawi in the north and 150 in Nahr el-Bared.
Abu Mohammed and another Fatah Uprising official, Mahmoud Doulla, told The Associated Press that their leaders were so impressed with al-Absi’s selfless dedication to the Palestinian cause that, at first, they ignored warning signs of other trouble.
«We weren’t of the same ideology,» explained Abu Mohammed. «They followed a more puritan kind of Islam, you can say fanatic Islam. … They were ready to kill disbelievers.»
Abu Mohammed and Doulla said they were concerned when they noticed al-Absi and his men were hostile toward allies of Fatah Uprising, such as the Syrian government, Lebanon’s Shiites and the militant Shiite group Hezbollah.
When Fatah Uprising officials in Lebanon alerted their superiors in Damascus that al-Absi’s men «were behaving strangely,» they were swiftly dismissed and told the group was in Lebanon for the «struggle» and to fight the «Zionist enemy,» said Abu Mohammed.
Al-Absi’s forces grew quickly. At the Shatilla camp, what started as 20 militants reached 100 during last summer’s Hezbollah war with Israel, Abu Mohammed said.
He said al-Absi was snubbed by Hezbollah when he offered to fight alongside the Shiite group during the summer war.
But Beirut-based Palestinian expert Majed Azzam said the offer to fight alongside Hezbollah was made by all the Palestinian factions in Lebanon, and rejected.
Al-Absi subscribes an ideology of Islam that urges Sunni Muslims to kill anyone they consider an infidel, even Shiite Muslims. But Azzam said despite that, al-Absi has never spoken against the Shiite Hezbollah because it is fighting Israel.
Al-Absi’s relationship with Fatah Uprising showed its first public sign of cracks last Nov. 23, when Palestinian and Lebanese security forces raided an apartment occupied by his gunmen in the Beddawi camp in northern Lebanon.
In the ensuing battles, a Palestinian security man was killed and two of al-Absi’s militants were wounded and handed over to Lebanese security by the camp’s Palestinian security. Al-Absi was angered that Fatah Uprising did not protect the men or protest their handover to Lebanese authorities.
On Dec. 5, Fatah Uprising leader Saeed Moussa ordered al-Absi and his fighters to leave his group’s bases in the Shatilla and Bourj el-Barajneh camps. Al-Absi withdrew to the Beddawi camp.
De fikk et ultimatum om å forlate Beddawi innen 24 timer, og havnet til slutt i Nahr el-Bared. Der kunngjorde al-Absi opprettelsen av Fatah al-Islam.
Historien viser hvor disruptiv jihadistene virker i et samfunn.