Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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1 Adar II 5763 - March 5, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Hamas Leaders Targeted by IDF
by M Plaut

As part of its offensive against Hamas, Israeli soldiers arrested Sheikh Muhammad Taha, 65, one of the co-founders of Hamas, as well as three of his sons, all of whom were deeply involved in terror activities. Three other Hamas terror criminals were detained at the same time, including one who was arrested while preparing a bomb. Israeli troops encountered heavy fire in the operation, including seven bombs that were set off.

According to unconfirmed reports from Palestinian sources, eight Palestinians were killed and 38 wounded in the operation and one of those killed was a 13-year-old boy. They did not say if he was armed. A woman who was pregnant was said to have been killed when her house collapsed after her neighbor's home was demolished.

IDF officials said all the necessary precautions were taken to prevent civilians from being harmed, and that while they were unaware of the incident, the army would investigate.

The US criticized the incursion in Gaza. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told a daily briefing, "We are also deeply concerned about the increasing Israeli use . . . of demolition and the civilian deaths that have resulted from this practice." But Boucher said the United States "understands the need for Israel to defend itself against ongoing violence and terror."

Security forces also arrested 26 Palestinians in Yehuda and Shomron in the past 24 hours, mainly in Nablus, Ramallah, and in the village of Tabuah west of Hebron.

The operation in Gaza, as several in the past two weeks, was aimed at destroying the Hamas infrastructure, arresting fugitives, and demolishing the homes of terrorists. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has said that the IDF will step up its operations against Hamas, turning the terrorists into hunted men forced to concentrate on defending themselves instead of planning attacks.

Hours after Israeli troops pulled out, at least two Kassam rockets were fired at Sderot. They caused no physical injuries, but some people who were near them when they landed suffered from shock. Hamas claimed that it launched five rockets, but the IDF found no evidence of more than two.

OC Gaza Brig.-Gen. Gadi Shamni said the rockets were fired from the Beit Hanoun-Jabalya area. "The PA is doing nothing to prevent the firing of rockets, and that is the reason the army is forced to move against the threat,"he said.

Two soldiers were lightly wounded during the operation against the Taha family. The Taha clan is responsible for "bomb attacks, Kassam attacks, planning and dispatching terrorists, and incitement," Shamni said.

The participating Givati Brigade troops, accompanied by combat engineers, armored units, and helicopters, were confronted with fierce opposition, as gunmen fired automatic weapons and RPGs and hurled grenades at the troops and detonated seven bombs, one containing 100 kilograms of explosives. Some of the most intense fire came as they prepared to arrest members of the Taha family and blow up their home.

The father was one of the founders of Hamas. Although he is considered part of its political leadership, he has been deeply involved in criminal activities. (Osama bin Laden is the political leader of Al Qaeda.)

The three sons arrested were all seasoned criminal terrorists. One was involved in smuggling weapons and was also in charge of the military training of cell members in Deir al-Balah. In 1993 a number of bombs were found in his home. Another commanded a terror cell which launched a number of bomb attacks against soldiers. The third was involved in many Hamas military operations.

Taha is one of the highest ranking Hamas political figures to be targeted. In response, there were reports that other Hamas political leaders shut off their phones and began moving from place to place.

Yoni Fighel of the International Policy Institute for Counterterrorism said that Israel had practiced a policy of ignoring Hamas, mistakenly hoping that Islamic fundamentalism would act to balance the power of Fatah.

The IDF has steered clear of the political echelon in Gaza. Political/spiritual leaders, such as Sheik Ahmed Yassin, Abdul Aziz Rantisi, Sheikh Ismail Abu Shanab, and Dr. Mahmud al-Zahar, have been given relatively free rein and all of them continue to speak freely to the press.

A Palestinian Authority spokesman said that there was nothing new in the arrest of Taha because many high-ranking PA officials have already been arrested. Most prominent of these is Marwan Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a political leader of the highest rank when he was arrested in April 2002. He is accused and now standing trial in Tel Aviv District Court on dozens of counts of murder, attempted murder, terrorism, and conspiracy to commit terror.

Israeli strategists have said for months that there was a need to target Hamas, which had been left largely untouched after more than two years of conflict.


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