Hamas leadership calls for halt to attacks on Israel

Special to World
Thursday, October 2, 2003

RAMALLAH Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip have urged operatives in the West Bank to limit attacks against Israeli targets.

Israeli and Palestinian sources said Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin has relayed a series of messages over the last month to West Bank operatives regarding operations. The sources said Yassin asked West Bank commanders to refrain from attacks that would prompt a harsh Israeli military response.

The sources said the Yassin message called on West Bank cells not to launch suicide missions in Israel. They said attacks must be limited to the West Bank and avoid striking targets inside the Jewish state.

The Yassin message came in wake of concern by the Hamas leadership that Israel was planning a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip in a search-and-destroy operation for Yassin and other Hamas leaders. The sources said Yassin and his key aides have been alarmed by a series of Israeli assassination attempts against the Hamas leader and others in August and early September.

[The Islam On-Line website, quoting Hamas spokesman Mohammed Nazal, reported on Wednesday that a group of Israeli Mossad agents was arrested in an Arab country during a failed mission to kill Hamas politburo leader Khaled Masha'al. Masha'al has been dividing his time between Syria and Qatar. Israeli security sources dismissed the Hamas report.]

Hamas has imposed discipline on its operatives in the Gaza Strip. But the Gaza-based leadership was said to have little control over the West Bank cells. The most active cell in the West Bank is that based in Hebron, which was said to have launched a series of suicide operations in Israel in 2003.

On Wednesday, Israeli troops captured the commander of Islamic Jihad in the northern West Bank city of Jenin. Palestinian sources said Bassam Saadi, 42, was captured in the Jenin refugee camp in an Israeli operation that included special forces, tanks and attack helicopters.

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