Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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18 Adar 5764 - March 11, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Hamas Admits it is Involved in a Worldwide Struggle
by M Plaut

In a major statement on Monday, Purim Demukofim, the religious terror organization Hamas said that it thinks and plans on a global scale.

In a statement taking responsibility for a suicide murder attack on a Tel Aviv cafe in April 2003 that murdered three people and left dozens wounded. The suicide murderer was a Pakistani-born British Muslim, 22-year-old Asaf Hanif of west London. He was accompanied to Israel by Omar Khan Sharif, 25, also a Pakistan-born Briton, from Derby, whose body floated ashore in Tel Aviv a few days after the bombing. Sharif also planned a suicide bomb but he did not detonate himself. He escaped from the scene of the bombing and apparently sought refuge in the sea from the search parties that went after him minutes after the bombing, and then drowned.

The declaration on Monday said the attack of the two Britons was on the first anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Ibrahim Almakadeh, the main ideological militarist of Hamas, one of its founders and the head of its military arm during a number of periods in the 1990s and current intifadah. He was killed by an IDF helicopter missile attack in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of in Gaza City, which also killed three of his aides.

"We have decided that the response to the crime of the assassination of Dr. Ibrahim Almakadeh should take place at the global level of the Islamic world," said the Hamas. The attack was the only successful terror attack inside Israel that came from Gaza.

When it was determined that the attackers were Britons, the speculation was that al-Qaida was behind the bombing. Now analysts say that the delay in the announcement of responsibility at the time was due to the timing of the attack. Britain was then considering adding Hamas, including the political wing, to the UK's list of terror organizations. Also because Hamas has not conducted any major operations lately, it wanted to send the message it could circumvent the fence around Gaza and the one going up in the West Bank.

The two Britons were able to travel relatively freely between the West Bank and Gaza and then through Israel at the time. Relatives of the two bombers in Britain are under arrest and awaiting trial on charges relating to the bombing. The three - - the bomber's wife, brother and sister -- are expected to be the first Britons to be put on trial on the basis of the amended terror laws promulgated after 9/11 for acts of terror conducted outside British territory.

Hamas, formally founded in 1987, has so far emphasized the local nature of its goals and character. Any attempt to tie it to global Islamic organizations was met with vehement denials by its spokesmen. In this statement, for the first time the organization presents one of its actions as part of a global Islamic struggle. It was the first time it used non- Palestinian suicide bombers.

Hamas also said that it would continue its attacks on Israel even after the planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in order to "liberate the rest of Palestine." The movement denied reports it was planning to seize control over the Gaza Strip after Israel withdraws from the area.

Senior Palestinian Authority officials fear that Hamas could step in if Israel withdraws from Gaza. The current state of chaos and lawlessness cannot continue if Israel leaves.

Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi said he believed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was serious about evacuating all the settlements from the Gaza Strip. "Today he [Sharon] knows that it is safer for him to run away from the hell of the Gaza Strip," he added. "He realizes that remaining in the Gaza Strip is going to cost him a lot. There is no doubt that this retreat from the Gaza Strip is a big victory for the Palestinian resistance. It is also an indication that the armed resistance is the only option the Palestinians possess."

Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman is scheduled to visit Ramallah soon for talks with PA Chairman Yasser Arafat on Israel's plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip. The visit, according to PA officials in Ramallah, is designed to put pressure on the Palestinians to enforce law and order in the Gaza Strip to prevent a slide into anarchy after the Israeli withdrawal. They said the Egyptians have made it clear that they would not deploy forces inside the Gaza Strip for fear that such a move could lead to a confrontation with the Palestinians.

Senior Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officers said that they expected that IDF operations in the Gaza area will continue. Early this week there was a short incursion into Gaza in which 15 Palestinians were killed, most of them armed.

The commanders of the operation say that armed terrorists held children up in the air, and fired from within crowds of unarmed children.

As they always do, Hamas threatened revenge for events in Gaza. Analysts say that Hamas is always trying to do whatever it can.

An IDF source told Globes, "We take into account possible harm to innocent bystanders, and make extensive efforts to avoid it as much as possible. However, we'll continue with operations like this, because unless we catch the terrorists on their home ground, we'll have to deal with them in Israel, at the Erez checkpoint, and in our communities, after our children and soldiers have been killed."

Despite 49 specific warnings of terrorist attacks, the IDF opened the Erez checkpoint and industrial zone to Palestinian traffic on Tuesday, after a closure for the Purim holiday weekend.

In a related story, the General Security Service (GSS) recently foiled a triple suicide bombing planned by the military wing of the Fatah. The plot featured a female suicide bomber who was to dress up as a volunteer of Magen David Adom (Israel's emergency medical service). The would-be female bomber gave herself up to security forces. She said that two other members of her cell in Nablus were planning to board a bus in central Israel and blow themselves up. She was to wait, dressed in a MDA uniform, for the arrival of rescue forces and set off her explosive belt among them.

This is an extremely clear violation of international rules of fighting. All noncombatants may not be targeted, and one may not dress in any way so as to disguise one's combatant status.


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